LA Movie Studio opens the door to fans
Visit Los Angeles and you’re sure to find movies being made, either on the street near your hotel or at one of the several studios that are open for guided tours. Today, most studios are closed to the public, except when an […]
Visit Los Angeles and you’re sure to find movies being made, either on the street near your hotel or at one of the several studios that are open for guided tours.
Today, most studios are closed to the public, except when an audience is needed for live shows or when extras are requested to populate various movie scenes. But there are several that do allow tours, including some where there’s a good chance you’ll see a real movie star.
The granddaddy of movie studio tours has to be Universal Studios Hollywood, which now lists its movie studio tour as just one small part of a Disneyland-like theme park with elaborate rides and attractions that have something to do with it. with the movies. Built along a hill in Universal City, the theme park has grown over the years adding new attractions to match some of the best films produced at Universal.
We first visited Universal over 30 years ago, so on our recent visit to the park, the overall experience felt much more like a complete entertainment package than when the tour was just a movie studio tour with few added attractions. . We went back to the park in the 1990s, but even since then this theme park seems to have grown dramatically, adding new attractions regularly to keep visitors coming back.
Visitors to the park are now greeted with a choice of parking, a lower-priced lot that requires some walking, and a premium lot that is closer to the park. We chose the former because we need the exercise, but unfortunately the park has installed an elaborate 21st century escalator system to take guests up and down the hilly terrain, both from the parking lot and from the theme park to the parking lot. real cinema. .
One of the highlights of our Universal visit was a discovery we made: the Front of the Line Pass. It’s a bit pricey, at $99.95 it’s about double what you’d pay if you buy a regular pass online, but it totally changes the experience. Instead of waiting in long lines all day (typical of most Southern California theme parks), we zip between the best attractions, never queuing for more than five minutes. We felt like we saw everything we wanted to see in one day, but we weren’t as exhausted as we could have been standing in lines that seemed to last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
The Front of the Line Pass is a great invention and is perfect for middle-aged people who no longer want to spend hours in lines at theme parks.
Most of the rides at Universal are relatively tame, not quite the kiddie-land variety, but somewhat less so than the roller coasters at Six Flags. Hydraulic rides like Back to the Future have been popular for many years, and guests also love the moderate rides and roller coaster at Revenge of the Mummy, as well as the Jurassic Park ride, which includes an 85-foot drop.
We were especially impressed with the show Waterworld, which is apparently doing much better than the movie. A group of actors and stuntmen put on a show filled with acrobatic feats and pyrotechnics culminating in a near-life-scale plane landing viewers in the water right in front of their seats.
There are numerous rides, attractions, world-class shows, all to keep you busy for much more than a day. But don’t forget to take the studio tour, which started it all decades ago. The tour still takes place on the famous streetcars that meander through Universal’s back parking lot. The streetcars were updated to feature TV commentary from stars like Whoopi Goldberg, but the experience was much the same as it was in the ’70s – only the TV shows and movies changed. Old attractions like the original Psycho house are still there, but now the tour includes a stop on Wysteria Lane to see the Desperate Housewives. You can still see where Spartacus was filmed, but now you also drive through the War of the Worlds plane crash scene. A new Fast and Furious demo adds another thrill with two race cars hurtling towards the tram through the magic of hydraulics.
Universal Studios is one of the best and easiest ways to get an up-close look at Los Angeles movie-making, but there are plenty of other fascinating places in the city. For example, Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills was home to such productions as Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas, and numerous television series. And, did you know that you can visit an industrial area of Culver City that was once the “Forty Acre Back Lot,” the former Mayberry location where all the outdoor scenes on the Andy Griffith Show were filmed?
In addition, there are still other interesting study tours that you can take:
Warner Brothers Studios, Burbank – We enjoyed this two hour tour we did a few years ago. Visitors are escorted in groups of 12 through the Warner Brothers lot, with stops along the way at TV and movie sets. All the settings and props here are real and not just for the benefit of tourists. Visitors can see the costume department, as well as the mill that creates the sets. Since numerous productions are underway at any given time, you may have a better chance of seeing a star here; we didn’t, but it was fun to see the actual sets for shows like Friends. Telephone 818-972-TOUR.
Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City – This is the home of incredible Hollywood history, and was the location where the Wizard of Oz was made. It is the former MGM Studios and offers a walking tour of the back of the studio, the sets, sound stages and historical scenery. In more recent years, the studio is where Men in Black and Spider-Man were filmed, and where shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are taped. Telephone 323-520-TOUR.
NBC TV Studio Tour, Burbank – These studios are where many live television shows have been taped, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The guided walking tour takes you through the warehouses where the costumes and props are stored, the control room areas, and the tour gives you a great overview of how network television is produced. Phone 818-840-3537.
TAKE A LOOK
WHERE: Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City, just north of downtown Los Angeles. The theme park is easily accessible using Highway 101 North. General parking will set you back $10, while you’ll pay double for preferred parking.
WHAT: Universal Studios Hollywood offers the most comprehensive experience of any movie studio tour: a huge theme park and a tour of the actual working areas of Universal Studios.
WHEN: All year. Wear sunscreen and be prepared for summer temperatures to be quite warm under the California sun.
WHY: While the Universal Studios tour is the most slickly produced of the movie studio tours, which isn’t necessarily a plus, it does offer a great theme park right next door. Any trip to Universal Studios Hollywood is as much about visiting the theme park as it is visiting the movie studio.
HOW: For more information on Universal Studios Hollywood, call 1-800-UNIVERSAL or visit http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com.