The Hollywood sign mistake you can’t unsee

Publish Date
Tuesday, 5 September 2023, 2:20PM
Have you ever noticed the mistake in the Hollywood sign? Photo / Getty Images

Have you ever noticed the mistake in the Hollywood sign? Photo / Getty Images

It might be the most iconic sign in the world, but if you look closely, you’ll spot an interesting mistake.

Sitting on top of the Santa Monica Mountains is the Hollywood sign. It’s been in movies, it’s been in songs and feels like a landmark older than time, but it features a “mistake” and once you see it, you’ll never unsee it.

If you look closely at the letter “W” in the white sign, you’ll notice one gap (that looks like a V shape) is not the same width as the other.

Speaking to, Jeff Zarrinman, chair of the Hollywood Sign Trust says it’s something he gets a “kick” out of telling people, “Even though people just stand and stare at it when they visit it, they never notice.

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“When I point it out and tell them one of the ‘V’s in the ‘W’ is wider than the other by a significant margin, they’re always amazed.”

Zarrinman added that the mistake occurred when the sign was rebuilt in 1978 and was done to the exact same proportion as its 1923 design.

“So the ‘mistake’, if you want to call it that, is still there, but people don’t notice even if they stare at it for hours — and when you notice it, you can’t unsee it.”

The sign was first added to the hills in the early 1920s and originally read “Hollywoodland”. Lighting up at night, the sign was created to attract downtown LA residents to the Hollywood Hills and encourage them to buy a section where they could build a home.

At the time, it was anticipated the sections would sell within a year so the sign was made to be temporary and was constructed with weak materials such as telephone poles and cables.

However, it continued to stand on the hill as the land did not sell as quickly as intended and by 1944, following the Great Depression, the landmark became property of the city.

In 1949, many petitioned to have the sign torn down but by then it was an iconic part of the city and was thus taken over by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce who looked after its maintenance and ownership.


Zarrinman noted that at the time they took over, the letter H had fallen off promoting the new owners to give the sign a rejig. Removing the “land” part of the sign, they then commissioned a complete rebuild with the help of celebrity funding.

By 1978, the sign was removed from the hill completely and three months later a brand new – and more sturdy – sign took its place.

Now, in 2023, the sign is due to mark its 100th anniversary and continues to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, including the 230,000 New Zealanders and Australians who visited LA last year alone.

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission. 

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