A Peruvian Mountain Claimed the World through Movies

Paramount 2002, Utah

Paramount 2002, Utah

Paramount 2002, Utah

Star Wars!  Was the film a worldwide phenomenon?  If it were, there would be intersections with Peru.

I decided to test my theory by going to the IMAX Theater with some of my friends at 1:30am on the opening Friday. Nothing gets the creative juices flowing like staying up too late with people who like to dress up in Princess Leia white robes and carry foam light sabers. I prepared myself by slipping on the over large 3D glasses, grasping my large bucket of popcorn and exchanging greetings with my fellow geeks. 

The theater darkened.  After the previews, with their usual warnings about ratings, and the screen filled with Artesonraju – a mountain in Peru! 

There were trailing stars dipping their points in water then circling above the mountain peak as the Paramount Logo filled the IMAX screen with 3D vividness! 

Current Paramount Logo
Current Paramount Logo

What was a mountain in Peru doing in the previews?  I itched to do research, still I waited as patiently as Luke Skywalker on a mountain for the last of the credits to roll.   

Paramount Pictures began 1912 and is the fifth oldest movie company in existence. But the real kicker?  One of Paramount’s founding fathers was a man named W. W. Hodkinson who owned the first theater in Ogden, Utah. 

Meanwhile, in Galaxy far, far away … or maybe a Hungarian village, a Jewish family named their new baby, Adolf Zukor.  At age 16 he came with his family to New York. They started sewing upholstery.  He quit working for someone else at the age of 19 and hired 25 men to work for him. By the time he was in his early 30’s Zukor’s Novelty Fur Company propelled him to riches.  He bought 300 acres in New York with a ‘sizeable house, a nine-hole golf course and a swimming pool.’  Zukor added ‘a night house, guest house, movie-theater, locker room, green houses, garages, staff quarters’ and completed the championship 18 hole golf course. 

When his cousin Max Goldstein asked for money to expand his arcade business to include such thrills as Edison’s electric lights, phonographs and moving pictures, Zukor decided to form a partnership and expand the business, buying extra arcades and movie houses.  His saw that many of the working class were attending movies and he had an idea that the middle class would be attracted by ‘Famous Players and Famous Plays’.

W.W. Hodkinson – the guy from Utah – started selling movie tickets for a nickel.  Within two years he was able to double admission to a dime.  By doing this he was able to amass capital and develop the industry further.

Back then movies were released on a state by state basis. Hodkinson saw an opportunity to create a system for movie theaters to potentially earn more money by establishing a national business, and developed the idea of ‘block booking’ or buying the rights to show movies from a particular motion picture studio a year in advance. 

The third player – Jesse Lasky was interested in the movie making business. He hired one of his first employees Cecil B. DeMille, who had no prior experience in the movie business with money he borrowed from his brother in law, Samuel Goldfish – later known as Samuel Goldwin. 

Zukor organized a three way merger of the companies, keeping Lasky, DeMille and Goldwin on the production side. They bought a lot in California for filming.  Zukor hired such stars as Rudolf Valentino and Mary Pickford.

They needed a name for the business and Hodkinson thumbed through the phone book and found ‘Paramount apartments’.  Zukor did not like it; he said no one would know what it meant.  Hodkinson realized that what they needed was a logo – so he sketched a picture of a mountain with 24 stars (later reduced to 22). There are conflicting accounts about the mountain.  Some say it was a rendition of Pike’s Peak. Other sources say that the mountain is obviously Artesonraju from Peru. As a side note, the name means reservoir of ice (Spanish artesa (reservoir) and the Quechua word raju (ice).

Original Paramount Logo - Mount Pfeifferhorn in Utah
Original Paramount Logo – Mount Pfeifferhorn in Utah

The movie empire called Paramount was formed from the ideas of these three men. But their films have encompassed many other ideas.  I wanted to know if there were other intersections between the major motion picture studio and Peru, so I perused their list of films.

Paramount has sent their film crews to Peru many times. Most notable and memorable may be the scenes from Motorcycle Diaries, the story of Che Guevera. These were obviously filmed on location. 

Gael García Bernal as Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Rodrigo De la Serna as Alberto Granado Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
Gael García Bernal as Ernesto Guevara de la Serna Rodrigo De la Serna as Alberto Granado Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

I went to the movie expecting to be thrilled by the actors, the familiar story. Instead I was filled with awe at the history that brought places and people together from all over the world and caused a Peruvian, snow-clad mountain, Artesonraju to occupy screens throughout the world for a century now. It may well be one of the most visually known mountains there is.

From a war against an evil empire to a revolution against oppression. The movies were made to depict different times and different people, but there tends to be a common theme.

I had gone to the movie expecting to be thrilled by the actors, the familiar story. Instead I was filled with awe at the history that brought places and people together from all over the world ­to create places where we can all dream.


Engulfed: The Death of Paramount Pictures and the Birth of Corporate Hollywood

Leave a Reply

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

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.