Before Hollywood, Long Beach was the hub of the motion picture industry. From 1918 to 1923, Balboa Studios was the most productive independent studio in the world. It was home to silent film stars Baby Marie Osborne, Jackie Saunders, Henry King, Buster Keaton, Fatty Arbuckle, Hazel Tranchell, Pearl White, Mabel Normand, and Slim (Pickens) Pickett. The studio was located on eight acres at Sixth and Alamitos Streets and, by 1920, had become the largest employer in Long Beach. Although the owner, Balboa Amusements Producing Company, was largely known for producing comedies, it also owned land in nearby Signal Hill for shooting western and adventure films.
After World War I, Hollywood became the new movie town and Long Beach became blighted with a very profitable forest of oil derricks. Balboa Studios went into decline. By 1924, the studio and its properties (some of its more than 100,000 props are still in use today) were auctioned off and the land was cleared for subdivision.