KHAN, SIMEON AND HARRY MANKEWITZ: PEASANT BROTHERS FROM BULGARIA WHO REVOLUTIONIZED THE MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY
May 4, 1901 - Khan, Simeon and Harry Mankewitz arrive at Ellis Island, New York. At the processing station, Khan tells his brothers to forget their miserable, horrible, disgusting past and focus only on the future. They will become "big deals" in America and make their deadbeat father and mother proud. Mankewitz is shortened to 'Manka' by the Immigration Officer.
The Mankas (Khan remained "Mankewitz" - only later (reluctantly) accepting Manka for business reasons) arrive in the Bulgarian section of New York (the corner of 14th & Bleeker).
Over the next couple of years, the brothers perform as juggling clowns on the streets for pennies. The next year, Harry sees The Great Train Robbery. He becomes hysterical believing the train on the screen is going to hit him and kill him. He vowed never to see another "moving picture" believing they would lead to the complete breakdown of society.
After being told this story, Khan, on a whim, steals his much weaker brother Simeon's horse (and only friend) Princess and sells it to buy a movie camera. Simeon is completely devasted and, some say, he never recovered. (After a lifetime of mental illness and ill-advised movie projects, Simeon died in 1956 on Hollywood Blvd. wearing on a "Benny's World Of Beef" sandwich board.)
Khan's first movies with his new camera were of his brother Simeon crying. These films were mildly successful with the public but not enough to pay the bills.
It wasn't until Khan filmed himself beating his brother Harry's head with a juggling club over and over again that they had their first breakout hit. The Mankas were on their way!
The public's appetite for the Manka Bros.' violent and funny films was so great, Khan had to invent some sort of softer wacking device so that his brothers could survive the daily pummeling. With the invention of the breakaway club, Khan had secured his legacy and earn his first patent.
Over the next couple of years, the Mankas were able to continually raise the admission prices to their movies because the demand was so high.
One night, after waking from a particularly violent nightmare, Simeon has the idea to sell everything they own to buy two more projectors, setting them up in nearby storefronts (inventing the "wide release"). The Khan Mankewitz Moving Pictures Company was up and running.
Thanksgiving Day, 1910: The Manka Bros. move west to California, settling in the Bulgarian section of Los Angeles (3rd & Fremont - present day 3rd & Hill). But Khan grew tired of only making movies of his brothers getting beaten. He wanted more.
The decision to make "more important movies" nearly ruined the company. They spent almost everything they had saved on a series of shorts about Turkish repression of the Bulgarians over the years and the valiant way the Bulgarians fought and died. They sold eight tickets. The company would probably have to shut down forever.
In an incredible stroke of luck, Simeon (while in an asylum to calm his nerves) filmed a basket of kittens playing with a ball of twine. It was this film - Kittens Playing With Balls Of Twine - that pulled the Manka Bros. out of the poor house and back into the money.
April 5, 1912: The Khan Mankewitz Moving Picture Studio incorporates and begins making movies far away from Hollywood out of a barn on an egg farm in Panorama City, CA. "The rest of the Hollywood community will come to us," Khan says.
First film after incorporation: The Immigrant starring Jolly Chester.
February 3, 1915:The company name is changed to the Manka Bros. Moving Picture Studio.
May 16, 1917: Manka Bros. relocates to Burbank, California.
Over the past 100+ years, Manka Bros. Studios has become The World's Largest Media Company, bringing the world the greatest entertainment ever produced - over 9,000 films, 90,000 hours of television, and hundreds of thousands of books, magazines, songs and games.
And we're just getting started!