4. Astoria was a prominent location in early American filmmaking
When films were beginning to revolutionize American entertainment in the early 20th century, Astoria played a central role in the industry’s early development. Kaufman Astoria Studios, which still stands as one of the largest film production facilities in the nation east of Hollywood, was the focal point for such development, though it was originally called just Astoria Studios. “Talking films,” or movies with sound, dialogue, and audio production, were first introduced in the 1920s and instantly became popular. Astoria Studios was ahead of the competition in producing these films, which attracted many top actors and actresses like Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson to go work in Astoria.
Film production back then was not as popular on the west coast as it was on the east. But after the United States entered World War II in 1941, the army took over the Kaufman Studio facility and used it to make Army training and indoctrination films. It remained as such up until around 1970, when the Army decided to abandon the facility. George S. Kaufman, whom the facility was named after, purchased it from the city in 1982 and funded a number of upgrades to the size of the studio itself and its production capabilities.
A lot of the old equipment that was used in the studio’s earliest production days was saved and is now on display at the nearby Museum of the Moving Image. Of all the buildings in the neighborhood section owned by Kaufman Studios, one specific building where the museum is located was dedicated to informing New Yorkers about the origins of film and what the earliest production was like. The museum’s exhibits feature plenty of interactive, family-friendly features and historical artifacts like cameras, film tape, and stage equipment.