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The Rise and Fall of NBC Radio City

NBC Radio City was one of Hollywood’s largest projects of the 1930s—and spectators were invited to watch its construction at the northeast corner of Sunset and Vine.

The Streamline Moderne building, blue-green in color and trimmed with aluminum strips, opened its doors on October 17, 1938, as the west coast headquarters for the National Broadcasting Company.

Designed by architect John C. Austin (Griffith Observatory, City Hall), the layout of NBC Radio City was functional.

The Vine Street wing comprised three stories of executive offices.

Along Sunset Boulevard: four individual theater-studios, linked by glass brick walls, each with its own external entrance to usher in the 300 people lined up down the street to see their favorite radio stars, like Jack Benny.

For optimum broadcasting, studios were built as modified motion-picture soundstages. Studio A, the largest, had 21 microphone outlets.

The main entrance at the corner had doors at both Vine and Sunset. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels allowed natural light to flood the lobby—illuminating “The Spirit of Radio,” a 40x25 mural by Edward Trumbull.

Throughout the four-acre property, a half-mile of corridors (with rubberized flooring for sound deadening) led to additional “blind” studios (not for audiences), artist lounges, dressing rooms, viewing booths, a music library, and of course, NBC gift shop.

As television became the dominant broadcast medium in the late 1940s, several Radio City studios were converted for NBC’s new Los Angeles station KNBH, until operations ultimately moved to Burbank.

Back in Hollywood, it was radio silence: Home Savings and Loan purchased the famed building and tore it down in 1964.

The demolition unearthed a time capsule buried under NBC Radio City’s entrance back in 1954, filled with Hollywood relics such as a recording of The Jack Benny Program.

Fittingly, when the capsule was opened, its contents had disintegrated.


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