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Hollywood almost lost to this city

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 Economics   |   Society / Culture   |   Social Science
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One Florida city could have been the world's movie capital. Why did it reject the movies?

Almanac Hollywouldn't is our miniseries on big changes to movies that came from outside Hollywood. Watch all of the episodes right here on YouTube.
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In this episode of Vox Almanac, Voxs Phil Edwards goes to Florida to answer a question: why did one city reject the movie industry?

In the early 1900s, the New York-centric film scene was in search of a warm-weather capital. Two contenders emerged: Los Angeles, California, and Jacksonville, Florida. And for a while, it was unclear which city would win the movie business. Jacksonville boasted a large industry, proximity to New York, and great weather. Some early comedy classics were even made there.

But ultimately, the city wasnt ready to become a movie town. The compromises of life with the movie industry like actors and actresses running loose around town proved too much for the Jacksonville establishment. The people of the city effectively voted against the movies when they voted against the industrys biggest political booster.

This footnote in history isnt just trivia though it shows how our culture could have had an alternate set of stories. Thats particularly obvious when it comes to Norman Studios, a film studio that endured in Jacksonville by casting black actors while much of the Hollywood establishment still relied on stereotypical roles or blackface. But well never know what might have gone differently Hollywood became Hollywood, and Jacksonville became a story in the archives.

Further reading:

Blair Millers book, Almost Hollywood, is a comprehensive look at the movie production scene in Jacksonville. It relies heavily on newspaper reports from the time (which is invaluable because its difficult to find digitized versions online).

The First Hollywood by Shawn C. Bean provides a longer and more accessible history of movies in Florida, including outposts in Miami as well as the Jacksonville story.

If you want to learn more about Norman Studios, you can visit their website here. is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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