This year we will be celebrating the 45th anniversary of Francis Ford Coppola’s production house American Zoetrope. Conceived of as an alternative to the Hollywood movie machine, Zoetrope first opened its doors in San Francisco in 1969. Here is a note about the beginning of the dream from the American Zoetrope site:
Francis Ford Coppola decided he would name his future studio “Zoetrope” after receiving a gift of zoetropes from Mogens Scot-Hansen, founder of a studio called Lanterna Film and owner of a famous collection of early motion picture making equipment. While touring Europe, Coppola was introduced to alternative filmmaking equipment and inspired by the bohemian spirit of Lanterna Film. He decided he would build a deviant studio that would conceive and implement creative, unconventional approaches to filmmaking.
Upon his return home, Coppola and George Lucas searched for a mansion in Marin to house the studio. However, with equipment flowing in and no mansion found yet, the first home for American Zoetrope became a warehouse in San Francisco on Folsom Street in 1969.
A series of films later, the studio continues to strive toward innovative filmmaking strategies in the historic copper clad Sentinel Building, home to American Zoetrope since 1972.
From its giddy beginnings, through triumphs like Apocalypse Now and wipeouts like One from the Heart, Zoetrope continues to function as a dream factory even today. Here is a great documentary about the early days of AZ, featuring the key players who were there in the beginning: Francis Coppola, George Lucas, Brian DePalma, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Caleb Deschanel, John Milius, Walter Murch, Carroll Ballard, Willard Huyk, John Korty, Matthew Robbins and Robert Dalva.