Mack Sennett, a silent film producer and director, came to the San Fernando Valley and opened his new movie studio at this location (at what's now Ventura Boulevard and Radford Avenue) in May 1928. He previously operated a smaller studio on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park (then called Edendale) where he produced films featuring the Keystone Kops, Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, and Fatty Arbuckle.
After creating the Studio City lot, Sennett in five years was forced to file bankruptcy and the studio lot was sold off to another film company, Mascot Pictures. Mascot renamed the newly acquired studio after itself, and the film company specialized in the format of the Saturday Afternoon Matinee, which were serials. By 1935, another film company, Monogram Pictures, along with Mascot and Consolidated Film Corporation merged to form Republic Pictures Corporation. The studio lot was renamed Republic Studios. The new studio specialized in B-movies, including many Westerns starring the likes of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and John Wayne, all of whom get their first breaks with Republic. In the 1950s, Republic leased studio space to Revue Productions, which filmed many early television series on the lot (including early episodes of Leave It To Beaver) before Revue's owner, MCA acquired Universal Pictures and moved Revue's television production to Universal City. Also, Four Star Productions also leased the lot for many its series like The Rifleman, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater, and The Big Valley.
Republic Pictures ceased production in 1958 and Victor M. Carter became its president in 1959. Carter built Republic into a diversified business with foci outside of the television and film business, and so began leasing its lot to CBS studios. In 1963, CBS Television became the primary lessee of the lot. Almost immediately after leasing the Republic Pictures lot, CBS began to place their network-produced filmed shows there, including Gunsmoke, Rawhide, My Three Sons, and Gilligan's Island. (The Wild Wild West followed in 1965). The Gilligan's Island lagoon was located at the northwestern edge of the lot; it was paved over in the mid-1990s to make room for a new parking structure. The original (second) house to TV's Douglas family on My Three Sons was also a feature on the residential street on the studio backlot. After the show finished in 1972, it was primarily used as a storage facility for lighting at the studio. It was razed in 1992 to make way for parking. The house itself was recognizable prior to My Three Sons on shows of the era like Perry Mason and was actually a huge barn with gambrel roof built in 1940 on the backlot of Republic Pictures for Gene Autry western films. In the 1950s a new facade was added to the front of the barn so that it appeared as a typical American suburban residence.
While under lease, the facility was renamed the CBS Studio Center. The network finally purchased the 70-acre lot outright from Republic in February 1967, for $9.5 million. That same month, Republic also sold off its film library. CBS built new sound stages, office buildings, and technical facilities. To make up for these investments, CBS began to rent out its studio lot for independent producers, and the newly created MTM Enterprises (headed by actress Mary Tyler Moore and her then-husband, Grant Tinker) became the Studio Center's primary tenant, beginning in 1970.
Moore's memorable sitcom, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, began filming here in 1970, along with its spinoffs, Rhoda, Phyllis, and Lou Grant. In July 1982, CBS formed a partnership with 20th Century Fox to share ownership of the Studio Center, thus once again renaming, this time as CBS/Fox Studios. However, that relationship was short-lived as Fox sold its interest of the Studio Center to MTM, and it became CBS-MTM Studios. In March 1992, the studio once again became CBS Studio Center, when MTM (which was later bought by 20th Century Fox's parent company, News Corporation) sold back its interest in the studio lot to CBS.
From 1991 to 1996, American Gladiators was videotaped at CBS Studio Center. The original "Gladiator Arena" (Stage 3) remains preserved in its original form in its original location, with tours and group events available.
Today, the studio is one of the most active in the city for producing sitcoms. It is also the base for "Semester in L.A.", a six-week course by Columbia College Chicago.
Since 2007, the Studio Center serves as the home to CBS's Los Angeles flagship TV station, KCBS-TV, along with sister station KCAL-TV, as they vacated Columbia Square to move into a newly built, digitally-enhanced office and studio facility located where the house for the hit CBS reality series, Big Brother, once stood. It enables the stations to broadcast their local news in High Definition. The CBS Studio City Broadcast Center also houses the Los Angeles bureau of CBS News, which is shared with the KCBS/KCAL local newsroom; on August 3, 2011, Scott Pelley anchored that evening's edition of the CBS Evening News from the newsroom.
In 2008, Entertainment Tonight and The Insider moved from the Paramount Pictures studios to the Studio Center; both shows are now in High Definition.
On July 2, 2012, CBS Studios announced that they will install six PureCell System stationary fuel cell systems at two production locations in California. Three of those units will be installed at CBS Studio Center and the three others will be installed at CBS Television City. "Fuel cells are a great fit for our business and sustainability goals," said Michael Klausman, President, CBS Studio Center & Senior VP Operations, CBS Television City. "With the installation of these PureCell systems, we will substantially increase our energy security by being able to continue operations in the event of a grid outage and, equally important, the installation is projected to reduce our impact on the environment and provide significant energy cost savings for our business."