Reflecting on the History of Omega Cinema Props as They Near the End of Their Unprecedented Move

Businesses come and go; inventories liquidate or move to new locations. Over at Debbies Book we are more familiar with this reality than most. Over 40 years of tracking businesses that work with art departments has given us the unique advantage to see the industry change and fluctuate over the decades. Some moves, however, are bigger than others and this particular change is certainly one of a kind. Omega Cinema Props will be officially closing it’s doors on Santa Monica Blvd. Thus begins a new chapter in the story of Omega and of their unique inventory of props.

One thing this change gave me was a chance to reflect on the history of one of the largest independent prop houses in the world along with the history behind it’s growth. The origins of Omega Cinema Props began under a few different names, the first of which was Cinema Mercantile.

Just after WW1 the first non-studio prop house Cinema Mercantile began gathering a large inventory of European furniture, rugs, china and more with the purpose of renting it to the quickly growing film industry. Their location on Santa Monica Blvd would later become the Omega/Cinema Props final location. Some of the, shall we say, older crowd may remember Sam who ran the Cinema Mercantile docks. If you lost an item he could come off as scary but he had a soft heart.

Originally located on Sunset Blvd in a 2,000 square foot building, Omega Studio Rentals (yet to carry the Cinema Props suffix) was the first prop house to help set decorators and buyers with what many call visual vignettes; preset collections of items already laid out for your decorating selection ease. Need an early 60’s living room featuring yellow and some kind of faux plant? There it was set up to point to, label, and leave. This made it much easier to hop off towards your next shopping destination with many things quickly marked off your list. They also brought out and prepped every pickup, something of a novelty in the 60’s.

With the success at it’s first location under the guidance of owner and founder E. Jay Krause, Omega Studio Rentals began to purchase other smaller prop houses and businesses in an effort to expedite the expansion of their own inventory. Outgrowing the Sunset Blvd location they moved into 5755 Santa Monica Blvd (later to be labeled C.P. Two). Over the decades following that initial move they made many acquisitions. These included Pac Man, Maggie’s Modern Furniture Rentals on Hollywood Blvd., and Cinema Props (where the addition to the name of Omega Cinema Props originated). In the early 80’s Omega nabbed Cinema Mercantile Company, Ltd. and Joseph Basch Galleries, adding even more to their inventory and providing themselves with a second location where Cinema Mercantile originally was and where Omega/Cinema Props has just moved out of, 5857 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles. In the 90’s Omega continued to add to their collection with the inventories of two more locations, Ready Props and Decades. Not too long after that Omega took over First Street Furniture Rental. It would be later known as C.P. Three, located on 1107 N. Bronson Ave. Already with three locations it only made sense to add C.P. Four, this location being over on 706 N. Cahuenga Blvd.

The inventory was not haphazardly dispersed. Every location had a specialty. Omega Cinema Props had the European antiques and similar pieces; C.P. Two had the restaurant, shops, and bank related items; C.P. Three housed the more rustic items such as Western themed props, dock items, all the way up to large Maori head statues; and C.P. Four held the office, school, and general electronic themed props.

As the business continued to grow Barry, Jay’s stepson, came in to help manage. Omega would continue to see success as one of the largest, if not the largest, prop houses outside of the studios. With expansion can come some unexpected bumps of course. On July 14th, 2010 the C.P. Three building sustained a major fire, affecting not only the building but most of the items within as well. In 2014, combining the inventories C.P. Three and C.P. Four, Omega opened up a new location, C.P. Valley. The new location was massive, with ample dock space and enough vertical space to hold two elephants on top of each other while they trotted. That final location would come back home to the Omega and CP Two locations a couple of years later.

And now, as we are nearing the end of this chapter of Omega Cinema Props’ story, we can begin looking forward. The prop house may be closing the last of it’s oldest locations but the props in their inventory, and their own individual stories, move on to the new location with the name.

Omega/Cinema Props
(323) 466-8201
1515 E 15th St,
Los Angeles, CA 90021
www.omegacinemaprops.com
Omega Cinema Props boasts one of the largest offerings of residential, institutional and commercial props.

If you would like to have your company/production featured contact us!
press@debbiesbook.com | (626) 797-7699

5 thoughts to “Reflecting on the History of Omega Cinema Props as They Near the End of Their Unprecedented Move”

  1. When the CBS Television City complex was established, built in the mid 1950’s, in West Los Angeles, built at the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue.…
    James “JIM” McNaughton was sent to Los Angeles by the NYCity CBS Network to set up the new Hollywood CBS TV Production Services division’s … “Art Department.”
    McNaughton wanted … to set up a CBS TV Network studio Art Department like a Hollywood feature film studio with a design staff, including an Art Director, draftsmen, graphic artists, including a Set Decorator position, including, as well, a drapery and a property department division.
    In the infancy of the development for the Television Industry, the New York City CBS TV Network and Local production facility used theatrical stage (scenic) designers, often acquiring Broadway stage scenic designers for their scenic set design studio stage sets requirements. When a scenic designer needed an assistant to assist in preparation for a stage set with furniture, carpets, drapery, floor finishes, decorative wall surface embellishments, paintings, landscapes, fixtures, and set dressing, CBS facilities drew from the stage-hand property department for on-stage-personnel. After production became more intense, these property personnel became designated “set decorators” …
    … feature film Production Designer Gene Callahan … began his early career, upon graduating with a theater degree from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, “L.S.U.” … following his theatrical ambition and pursuits – by going to NY City, and landing a job as a member of CBS’ stage-hand Union’s property department … the CBS Network eventually decided to designate the “assistant to the scenic designer” … as a “SET DECORATOR” … which is the reason the Hollywood CBS TELEVISION CITY … art department was established … with a “Set Decorator” … within the studio’s art department created by James “JIM” McNaughton !!!
    The “Art Director” design title was a West Coast Theatrical Feature Film credential … When the Society of Motion Picture Art Directors IATSE #876 was established in the very late 1950’s (1958-‘59), the Art Director position and title was also being used for local and network television stage-scenic designers. Both the NBC and ABC local and networks adopted the “Art Director” nomenclature designated stage design title. In New York, the unionization of the creative design staff with the United Scenic Artists #829 … the TV stage designer credit-title was as a … “Scenic Designer” … not as an … Art Director !!! The reason ? Because the New York TV graphic designers could only be designated, and titled – just like in print advertising … “Art Director” … similarly a carry-over by the New York Graphic Design Guild’s union contract !!!
    Only when a New York #829 Scenic Designer was paid as an independent contract Production Company’s employee, was the TV production company able to give the set designer the “Art Director” title on a Network end-credit crawl listing !!!
    The title … “Production Designer” … was completely controlled by SMPAD #876 … which had to give their approval to a producer, upon a written request, addressed to their Board of Directors. The Film Society of Art Directors #876 determined that the union needed to embrace Television Art Directors after the TV staff designers asked for union representation when IATSE became television art department personnel’s principle union association.
    Around 1964, film Production Designer/Feature Film Art Director – Gene Allen … became the #876 Union Representative. During this era, many of the Television Network and Local Art Directors had become associated as #876 union members. During this 1960’s period, quite a number of Nee York Television #829 Scenic Designers would be sent to the West Coast for Network dramatic and musical variety Specials … “fringe benefits” … which #876 jurisdictionally allowed … understandably … BUT … when the New York Designer’s frequency of related work became permanent West Coast Residency … Gene Allen would contact the TV Studios Art Departments about the Art Director’s position and West Coast status !!!
    Because of the shift in television production to the West Coast in the late 1960’s, and during the 1970’s, many New York talents relocated to California, including writers, directors, creative costume and scenic designers, set decorators, choreographers, and talented theatrical performers …

  2. NBC BURBANK TV – contracted – monthly rental deals – with Cinema Mercantile – for all of their day-time dramatic “soap-suds” scheduling, including “DAYS OF OUR LIVES” (1965-) … “BRIGHT PROMISE” (BING CROSBY PRODUCTIONS/NBC PRODUCTIONS: 1969-1971) … “RETURN TO PEYTON PLACE” (20th Century Fox/NBC PRODUCTIONS: 1972-1975) …
    Curiously, NBC TV production services did not use “set decorators” as such… instead, Assistant Art Directors were part of the art department design team, nor did an “Assistant” have to be expected to have drafting, nor drawing abilities, nor training !!! Quite a few “Assistants” became mostly glorified prop-men !!!

  3. Modern Props, actually had been located in NYCity, providing contemporary furniture set dressing for both film and network television day-time programming … during the early 1960’s, the NYC film industry experienced “RUNaway production” … as did the West Coast Film work … Maggie and her husband moved their NYC “Modern Props” … West … relocating their properties in Hollywood … their prop house became a “new” rental source for both Film and TV production. Always ambitious for inventory, Maggie would purchase show inventory from cancelled … Television series … productions !!! When the independent Hugh Hefner’s syndicated … “Playboy After Dark” … shut down, Maggie purchased the show’s set dressing.
    When the NBC mega-train-wreck series, “SUPER-TRAIN” was a axed … filming at the MGM Culver Studios … Maggie purchased the train-show’s furniture and set dressing inventory from NBC Productions… soooo….there….!!! and MAGGIE … retired from show-biz !!!

  4. “Cinema Mercantile Props” – originally – was established by THE early film companies – where the companies put their film props and furniture, rugs, drapery, armor, electrical fixtures, chandeliers, etc., in storage –
    Across the street, established as “First Street Properties” … was where the “Western” props and furniture was stored !!! Also, where the Western vehicles -Wagons and Horse drawn Coaches and carriages were stored … on the exterior’s open warehousing side existence … Napoleon had two black ebony finished War coaches for his travels … one for Russia, another one, … for France… During the early 1930’s … as I remember the story … I believe it was the 20th Century Fox Studio, who purchased one of the Napoleon coaches … after filming, … the Napoleon Coach was stored … at First Street… during the mid 1950’s, maybe the ‘40s ? The prop house had a disastrous fire that destroyed all of the Vehicles, including the Napoleon Coach ! The ornate silver Pair of Coach’s Lamps were always stored safely – at the Cinema Marc’s electrical departments third floor area.… the only 2 pieces from the Napoleon Coach …
    Incidentally, the other … existing Napoleon War-Coach … is located at/on exhibit in a London War Museum !!!
    South of Cinema Merc … on the same side of Santa Monica Blvd. … located the upscale BASCH Furniture Gallery property house where the film studios’ French and Italian 17th, 18th Century properties, including rugs, drapery, furniture, crystal chandeliers, and fixtures, sculptures, and silver/ceramic hand props were secured for the studios rental use. These three property houses … at one time … belonged as one company … !!! When Jay Krause decided to move from his Omega Property Rental House, a North Sunset Blvd location, Jay purchased the upscale third BASCH GALLERY prop house … from Cinema Mercantile.
    During the 1970s … BASCH had many exquisite pieces of chairs, carpets, inlaid tables, that the film studios had purchased in their European crazed 1930’s buying sprees of rare French Court antique furniture and sculpture … many pieces that had originated in.… Louis IV , through the NAPOLEON ERA … Versailles Court. One item was a 36 inch round pedestal glass top table, with miniature portraits of Royal Court Head paintings in oval discs that were spaced around the tables diameter band, protected by the brass finished glass top.
    The Versailles Collection … was rounded up … sent to a New York City Auction House … SOLD .to t😩😋he highest BID !!!
    Jay Krause, was a staff NBC Art Director, during the 1950’s and early 1960s. Bob Kelly, another NBC Staff Art Director, was DINAH SHORE’s CHEVY SHOW designer. The Studio charge to the production company producing their product … were billed “directly” … for the NBC Art Director Service. Bob Kelly learned that he was being paid a staff weekly rate … his show was being charged $3,5000.00 a week !!! (1961-‘62). Bob Kelly QUIT !!! His assistant art director, BILL MORRIS … promoted … taking over the show’s art director position.
    On the other hand, Jay Krause and Spencer Davies, both on staff, followed suit … independence … and now, a paid “free-lance” salary fee … by their prospective shows …
    Jay nor other studio set decorators had no source for “modern contemporary furniture” to dress their stage sets. Jay, used his personal home furniture, to dress his “BOB HOPE SHOW”. … TV comedy sketch sets !!! Creating OMEGA PROPS … locating the small prop house in a North Sunset Boulevard shop location….everything squeezed inside the building !!!
    When Jay entertained at his home … he had to move the shop back to his house … for tables and seating … including lamps, carpets, and hand-props !!! Jay always served a lavish “Christmas Party” attended by all of US … TV STUDIO PEOPLE !!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *