Success breeds competition, and this was true in the early days of the Grand Canyon when Lookout Studio was created as a photography studio to draw business away from Kolb Studio.
Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, the brothers who founded their photography studio at the Bright Angel trailhead, gained their notoriety as the first men to make a motion picture of the Colorado River amid its entire course through the Grand Canyon.
They opened the studio in 1903 photographing visitors who rode the Fred Harvey mule trains down the Bright Angel Trail.
Initially, the studio was housed in a small cave in the side of a canyon wall. The brothers placed a blanket over the entrance so they would have a makeshift darkroom. A year later, they built a two-story wooden structure on a rock shelf blasted out of the canyon wall.
In 1912, the Kolb brothers embarked on a historic boat trip down the Colorado River. They were the first individuals to record their exploits with a movie camera. The adventure started in Green River, Wyoming where John Wesley Powell’s famous expedition departed in 1869. The journey took two months and saw the brothers traverse the Green River to the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. The trip ended in Needles, Calif.
After completing the adventure and finalizing their movie, they toured the world promoting the film and then returned to the Grand Canyon. In 1915, they started showing the movie daily in an auditorium they built at their studio. It was part of a three-story addition (including living quarters). Ellsworth lost interest in the business and headed west for Los Angeles in 1924, but Emery operated the film daily until his death in 1976.
Today, historic Kolb Studio is open year-round. It features an exhibit venue, bookstore, and information center operated by the Grand Canyon Association, a nonprofit organization. Proceeds from sales at the bookstore are used for the continuing restoration and care of the building. Fully remodeled in 2004 for the Kolb Studio Centennial, the bookstore now contains a tribute to the Kolbs’ photography of mule riders at the Grand Canyon.
Also known as The Lookout, Lookout Studio is situated on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon amid Grand Canyon Village.
Built by the Sante Fe Railway in 1914, it is one of six buildings at the Grand Canyon that were designed by architect Mary Colter. Bright Angel Lodge, Hermit’s Rest, Hopi House, Phantom Ranch, and Desert View Watchtower are the others.
Today, Lookout Studio features a gift shop and an observation station with high-powered telescopes.
To learn more about the Grand Canyon itself, make plans to see the National Geographic Visitor Center, which is located at the south rim entrance of Grand Canyon National Park. The visitor center serves as a destination and a resource for the most comprehensive selection of information about Grand Canyon area hotels, tours, attractions, restaurants and sightseeing and outdoor activities.
The National Geographic Visitor Center features a 500-seat IMAX Theater which shows “Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets,” a 2,500-square-foot National Geographic outfitter store, National Geographic exhibits and maps, and national park interpretive services and park passes. The facility also includes a 140-seat restaurant, National Geographic Expeditions sightseeing tours and the Arizona Office of Tourism.
Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets is a perfect way to begin your Grand Canyon vacation because the film introduces viewers to the natural wonders and riveting history that lies within the canyon. The movie is shown hourly, 365 days a year. Seen by more than 40 million people since its debut 20 years ago, Grand Canyon is the highest-grossing giant-screen film of all time.