When Matthew Poyer started working at Universal Studios in July of 1978 at 16 years old, it seemed like a good place for a temporary summer job.
Five of his brothers also worked there, too.
Then, he met his wife at Univeral Studios, in the food services department. She had five siblings who worked there. His sister met her husband there.
The Universal Studios Theme Park tram took tourists over that collapsing bridge, there was no public movie theater, and Universal CityWalk was merely a plan on the drawing boards.
Today, Matthew Poyer is the vice president of operations of Universal CityWalk. The movie theater complex was once the largest in the world, and every retail space in the complex is at 100 percent capacity just before CityWalk celebrates its 20th anniversary next year.
And, his 22-year-old son is now working there.
“Universal is a great place to work,” Poyer said while giving a tour of CityWalk. “And I’m happy to still be here.”
His family with 14 children lived in Encino while he was growing up. Now, he and his family now live nearby in Studio City where they've lived for two decades.
Recently, Poyer was one of the dozens of local residents who testified at the Los Angeles City Hall public hearings to tell politicians that he was supportive of the Universal Evolution Plan that will add office buildings and hotels to the studio property.
“I come to you as a longtime resident and a longtime employee,” Power testified. And when he rattled off his family connections to the studios and how his family was so connected, the audience gasped, and laughed.
“The weird connection of Universal to me and my family goes way back to 1916,” Poyer said. “We have deep roots with the studio.”
Universal Studios is celebrating 100 years at its location near Studio City, when audiences came to watch silent movies being filmed while they sat in grandstands. There was a chicken farm on the property, just in case this new industry wasn’t going to work out.
Poyer’s great-grandfather, D.F. Poyer, (see the PDF photo in the gallery above) manufactured trucks in the early 1900s. He is pictured with grandfather Lester who made a 4,000-mile trek across the country promoting Universal in a marketing campaign. That trip started in Alma, Mich. on Oct. 5, 1916 and ended in Universal City on Dec. 14.
“It was quite a drive in 1916 in the winter months,” Power said.
The camaraderie and social events at Universal Studios kept Poyer and his family working there.
“It works out well as a place to get a job for the summer when in high school and college because it’s during the breaks that they need people here to work and it’s a fun temporary job,” Poyer said. “I started getting more and more work responsibilities and I stayed on.”
He became a manager, and got promoted. CityWalk grew. The theater multiplex, bowling alley, stage and shopping complex were built as a connective spine from parking structures to the theme park. Jon Lovitz opened a comedy club, there’s a simulated skydiving tube and a Los Angeles Sheriff’s station.
Now, he is vice president for operations of Universal CityWalk.
Poyer comes to CityWalk with his family—children 10, 19 and 22—for fun events even at his time off and come for a frozen yogurt.
“There’s an amazing vision for what is happening here,” Poyer said. Next year is the 20th anniversary of CityWalk, and then, of course, there are plans for the new Harry Potter ride at the theme park.
“We’re all pretty excited about Harry Potter,” he smiled.