Estudios San Miguel (San Miguel Studios) was an Argentine film studio that was active in the 1940s and early 1950s. It flourished during the golden age of Cinema of Argentina, and at its peak was one of the major studios in Buenos Aires. Genres ranged from musical comedy to costume drama and gaucho thriller. Films included La guerra gaucha (The Gaucho War 1942), co-produced with Artistas Argentinos Asociados, and the comedy Juvenilia (1943), both of which won several major awards. Eva Duarte, soon to become the first lady of Argentina as Eva Perón, appeared in two of the studio's films in 1945. The studio became overextended financially and ceased production after 1952.
Estudios San Miguel was founded and owned by Miguel Machinandiarena (1899–1975). Machinandiarena was a Basque from Navarre who had emigrated to Argentina in 1915. His family was very wealthy, had large real estate investments and controlled the Casino de Mar del Plata. Miguel Machinandiarena founded the company in 1937 with his brothers Narciso and Silvestre and began to build the studios and laboratories in the town of Bella Vista.
The studio absorbed SIDE (Sociedad Impresora de Discos Electrofónicos), which had pioneered the tango format with a trilogy of films, but failed to establish a solid business model. In 1940 Estudios San Miguel launched its first production, Petróleo, directed by Arturo S. Mom. Machinandiarena was one of the great promoters of the Argentine film industry. For a while the studio was one of the largest Argentine film companies.
The Italian director Catrano Catrani, who emigrated to Argentina in 1937, became artistic director of the studio. He and other directors at the studio were assisted by Catrani's wife, Vlasta Lah, who later directed Las furias (1960) and Las modelos (1963). The set designer and later director Ralph Pappier designed the sets of La guerra gaucha (1942), En el viejo Buenos Aires (1942) and Madame Bovary (1947). In 1944 Pappier created the first special effects department for the studio. Pappier and Homero Manzi made Pobre, me madre querida in 1948. The Peruvian poet and author César Miró was a technical adviser at the studio from 1944 to 1953, when he moved to Paramount Pictures in Hollywood.
The future producer and director Hector Olivera joined the studio as an assistant in 1947. Later he moved to Artistas Argentinos Asociados and then became a co-founder of Aries Cinematográfica Argentina in 1956. The scriptwriter, producer and director Enrique Carreras joined the studio when he was very young. He later founded the Productora Cinematográfica General Belgrano in 1949 and directed his first film, El mucamo de la niña in 1951.
The studio's last production was released in 1952. As of 31 December 1954 the studio had a debt of more than six million pesos.
La guerra gaucha (1942) was an adaptation of a novel by Miguel de Unamuno. The partners at Artistas Argentinos Asociados decided to make the film with their own funds. These proved insufficient and they had to partner with San Miguel Studios and undersell the exhibition rights for the movie earlier in some areas. These decisions allowed them to make the film with "a little less belt-tightening but without splurging". The film was shot almost entirely within the Estudios San Miguel apart from two scenes in the Tigre delta in the Río de la Plata. The film won three Silver Condor awards, including Best Film, Best Director (Lucas Demare), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ulyses Petit de Murat and Homero Manzior).
The 1943 comedy-drama Juvenilia was directed by Augusto César Vatteone. At the 1944 Argentine Film Critics Association Awards the film won the Silver Condor Award for Best Film. The Argentine Academy of Cinematography Arts and Sciences gave the studio the "Best Picture" award for Juvenilia (1943), La dama duende (1945) and Los isleros (1951). The studio had difficulty with the censors in 1944 over El fin de la noche (End of the Night) which was anti-Nazi, while Argentina was neutral during World War II (1939–45).
The 1945 musical La cabalgata del circo (The Circus Cavalcade) was a vehicle for the female star of the moment, Libertad Lamarque. Due to her performance, the film drew huge audiences. The film also included Eva Duarte, soon to become Eva Perón as wife of the president of Argentina, in a minor role. Eva would arrive late at the studio, and would interrupt the shooting any time she was wanted on the phone, without the director daring to complain. However, Eva's participation made it possible for Machinandiarena to obtain celluloid from the military government's Ministry of Communications. Later in 1945 María Eva Duarte starred in La Pródiga (The Prodigal). On 3 August 1946 Machinandiarena signed over all rights to this film to the president's wife.
In 1945 the studio produced La dama duende (The Phantom Lady), produced by Machinandiarena and directed by Luis Saslavsky, based on a 17th-century cloak-and-dagger comedy by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. The director and the leading lady, Delia Garcés, were Argentine. Otherwise the film was made by Spanish Republican refugees, including the script, decor, cinematography and principal actors.