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