The billboards on the Sunset Strip--long the battleground for advertisers touting everything from Calvin Klein to Marlboro to Pia Zadora--have been enlisted for a new war on a new target: film makers.
In the last month, four of the towering graphics along the two-mile stretch most traveled by the movers and shakers in the film industry have been jousting for industry attention.
Today, the Chicago skyline can be seen along Sunset courtesy of the state of Illinois; San Antonio offers "Wings," winner of the first Oscar for best picture (1927), filmed in--you guessed it--San Antonio; San Diego urges movie moguls to "Sneak a Peek in Your Own Backyard."
And now the battle for runaway production has been joined--by Hollywood itself.
A "Shoot Los Angeles" billboard sits above a used-car lot at Sunset Boulevard and Queens Road to remind the industry that Los Angeles is still the place to film.
"There was a time when 100% of production was done in Los Angeles; today it is less than 25%," said Charles M. Weisenberg, director of motion picture and television affairs for Los Angeles.
California is still the leading location for film production, he said, but the billboard war forced Los Angeles onto the Sunset Strip battleground.
"The (industry's) attitude is that Los Angeles has become blase and that the city is not willing to do what movie companies want, whereas you can go to New York and shut down the Brooklyn Bridge," said Weisenberg. So up went the reminder that Hollywood can be accommodating too.
While Los Angeles may be the latest combatant, both Illinois and San Diego claim they each fired the first shot.
"We were the first in Los Angeles," said Janet Kerrigan of the Illinois Film Board. She said the state's first billboard went up in February, 1985. The present one at Sunset and La Cienega boulevards is the state's second.
San Diego insists that its initial billboard ("Make a Backyard Movie") was there first: June 1, 1984, before the Olympics. "So I beat them by seven months," said Wally Schlotter of the San Diego Motion Picture and Television Bureau.
Then came San Antonio and, not to be outdone, Mayor Bradley decided to dip into Los Angeles' Motion Picture Trust fund to remind folks that Hollywood still has it all.
The city got a bargain rate as a nonprofit organization from Foster & Kleiser: $2,600 a month to rent the billboard. "And we got the solar disks (that add glitter to the appeal) for free," said Donna Bojarsky, an administrative assistant to Bradley.
By comparison, Illinois' billboard runs nearly $10,000 a month, while San Antonio's costs about $6,000 monthly, the film boards said.
And the volleys have just begun. If Hollywood, Calif., has joined the fray, can Hollywood, Fla., be far behind?