Universal Studios Hollywood
History and museums
Universal Studios Hollywood is a film studio and theme park in the Universal City community of the San Fernando Valley region of the city of Los Angeles, California, United States. It is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood film studios still in use. Its official marketing headline is "The Entertainment Capital of LA". It was initially created to offer tours of the real Universal Studios sets and is the first of many full-fledged Universal Studios Theme Parks located across the world. Woody Woodpecker is the mascot for Universal Studios Hollywood.
Outside the theme park, a new, all-digital facility near the Universal Studios backlot was built in an effort to merge all of NBCUniversal's West Coast operations into one area. As a result, the current home for KNBC, KVEA and NBC News with Telemundo Los Angeles Bureaus with new digital facility is on the Universal lot formerly occupied by Technicolor SA. Universal City includes hotels Universal Hilton & Towers, the Sheraton Universal Hotel, the multi-screen Globe Theatre, often used for banquets and receptions and Universal CityWalk, which offers a collection of shops and restaurants. In 2013, the park hosted 6,148,000 guests, placing it 17th in the world and 9th among North American parks.
From the beginning, Universal had offered tours of its studio. After Carl Laemmle opened Universal City on March 14, 1915, he would later invite the general public to see all the action for an admission fee of just $0.05, which also included a lunch box containing chicken inside. There was also a chance to buy fresh produce, since then-rural Universal City was still in part a working farm. This original tour was discontinued in around 1930, due to the advent of sound films coming to Universal.
Universal Studios Hollywood's back lot has been damaged by fire nine times throughout its history. The first was in 1932 when embers from a nearby brush fire were blown toward the back lot causing four movie sets to be destroyed and over $100,000 damage. Seventeen years later in 1949 another brush fire caused the complete destruction of one building and damage to two others. In 1957, the New York street film studio set was destroyed by an arson fire causing half a million dollars in damage. Ten years later, in 1967, twice as much damage was done when the Little Europe area and part of Spartacus Square was destroyed. It also destroyed the European, Denver and Laramie street sets. In 1987, the remaining portion of Spartacus Square was destroyed along with street sets and other buildings. As with the 1957 fire, this was suspected to be the result of an arsonist. Just three years later another deliberate fire was started in the back lot. The New York Street set, the Ben Hur set and the majority of Courthouse Square were destroyed. In 1997, the seventh fire occurred at the back lot. A portion of the Courthouse Square was again destroyed, though most survived.
The most damage was done on June 1, 2008 when a three alarm fire broke out on the back lot of Universal Studios. The fire started when a worker was using a blowtorch to warm asphalt shingles being applied to a facade. The Los Angeles County Fire Department had reported that Brownstone Street, New York Street, New England Street, the King Kong attraction, some structures that make up Courthouse Square, and the Video Vault had burned down (not to be confused with the actual Film Vault, The Video Vault contains the duplicates of the films). Aerial news footage captured the Courthouse building surviving fire for the third time in its history, with only the west side of it being slightly charred. Over 516 firefighters from various local fire departments, as well as two helicopters dropping water, had responded to the fire. Fourteen firefighters and three Los Angeles County sheriffs' deputies sustained minor injuries. The fire was put out after twelve hours, during which time firefighters encountered low water pressure.
Destroyed were 40,000 to 50,000 archived digital video and film copies chronicling Universal's movie and TV show history, dating back to the 1920s, including the films Knocked Up and Atonement, the NBC series Law & Order, The Office, and Miami Vice, and CBS's I Love Lucy. Universal president Ron Meyer stated that nothing irreplaceable was lost, meaning everything could be rebuilt again at a price of at least $50 million. Unfortunately while this may be true of the archive of video material, the fire also destroyed a huge and irreplaceable archive of analogue audio master tapes belonging to Universal Music, including all of Decca's masters from the 1930s to the 1950s and most of the original Chess masters which included artists such as Otis Redding, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. Days after the fire, it was reported that the King Kong attraction would not be rebuilt and would eventually be replaced by a new attraction that had yet to be announced. In August 2008, Universal changed its position and announced plans to rebuild the King Kong attraction, basing the new attraction on the 2005 film adaptation.
Shortly after Music Corporation of America took over Universal Pictures in 1962, accountants suggested a new tour in the studio commissary would increase profits. On July 15, 1964, the modern tour was established to include a series of dressing room walk-through's, peeks at actual production, and later, staged events. This grew over the years into a full-blown theme park. The narrated tram tour (formerly "Glamor Trams") still runs through the studio's active backlot, but the staged events, stunt demonstrations and high-tech rides overshadow the motion-picture production that once lured fans to Universal Studios Hollywood.
In 1965, the War Lord Tower opened as one of the first attractions in the theme park. This was followed by the opening of the Animal Actors' School Stage in 1970. In 1974, the Rockslide staged event was added to the Studio Tour. The following year The Land of a Thousand Faces opened on the Upper Lot. In 1979, the Battle of Galactica replaced Rockslide as a staged event on the Studio Tour.
The Flintstones Show opened, replacing the Star Trek Adventure. In 1991, E.T. Adventure opened as the park's first "dark ride," an industry term for an attraction that uses ride vehicles to take passengers through an indoor show building. Around the same time, sister park Universal Studios Florida opened, which had its own, similar E.T. attraction. The Florida version was more of a conventional theme park and paved the way for the Hollywood park's evolution. In 1993, Back to the Future: The Ride opened, replacing Battle of Galactica. In 1996, Jurassic Park: The Ride opened. In 1997, two shows were replaced: The Land Before Time show replaced Rocky and Bullwinkle Live; and Totally Nickelodeon replaced the Flintstones Show. Just one year after it opened, the Land Before Time show was replaced with Coke Soak. In 1999, T2 3-D: Battle Across Time and a Chicken Run Walk through opened on the upper lot. Additionally, Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue was closed.
In 2000, the Rugrats Magic Adventure replaced Totally Nickelodeon. In 2001, the Nickelodeon Blast Zone opened. Also in 2001, Animal Planet Live replaced the Animal Actors' School Stage. In 2003, Universal Studios Hollywood closed E.T. Adventure to make way for Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride, which opened in 2004. The following year, Fear Factor Live replaced Spider-Man Rocks. In 2007, Universal's House of Horrors opened, replacing Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula. Both Back to the Future: The Ride and Lucy: A Tribute were closed, being replaced in 2008 by The Simpsons Ride and the Universal Story Museum respectively. Also in 2008, the Nickelodeon Blast Zone was re-branded to the Adventures of Curious George. In 2009, Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical replaced Fear Factor Live in the Upper Lot.
In 2010, the Special Effects Stages and Back draft attractions were closed to make way for Transformers: The Ride, which was announced in 2008 (Special Effects Stages was moved to the former Creature From The Black Lagoon building and reopened as Special Effects Stage). King Kong 360 3-D also opened. On May 24, 2012, Transformers: The Ride opened on the Lower Lot. On December 31, 2012, Universal Studios Hollywood closed T2 3-D: Battle Across Time for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, the attraction at Universal Studios Florida, which opened on April 12, 2014.
In April 2014, the park announced Springfield: a new dining complex to be built around the Simpsons Ride. The new eating locations will feature "signature eateries from Krusty Burger to Luigi's Pizza and Phineas Q. Butterfat's 5,600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor to iconic watering holes like Moe's Tavern and Duff's Brewery". It opened on March 28, 2015.
Universal Studios Hollywood is split into two areas on different levels, connected by a series of escalators called the Starway. These areas are known as the Upper lot and Lower lot. As of February 2016, Universal Studios Hollywood contains 9 rides, 7 shows, and a large outdoor play area. Each lot features a collection of rides, shows and attractions as well as food, beverage and merchandise shops.
The Upper Lot is home to a variety of family based attractions. The theming of the Upper Lot includes a Mission Revival entrance pathway that ends at the new Universal Plaza opened in 2013. There are not as much fully themed lands as there are small environments linked together with a common Art Deco theme that reflects the glamour of Old Hollywood. The Upper Lot is home to a variety of shows including the Universal's Animal Actors Show, the Special Effects Stage, Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular and Shrek 4-D, a 3-D film which features additional immerse features.
The Upper Lot features Springfield, themed to "The Simpsons" television show. This area contains comedic motion simulator The Simpsons Ride, along with multiple eateries themed to the show, a gift shop themed to The Kwik-E-Mart, and several character meet and greets.
The Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem motion simulator ride also has its own themed area that contains a large outdoor dry and wet play area for children called Super Silly Funland, in addition to a flat spinner ride called The Silly Swirly. Gru's Lab Cafe and Despicable Delights are the two themed eateries in the area.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter soft opened February 12, 2016, and officially opened April 7, 2016, and is the largest themed area in the Upper Lot, featuring the animatronic and screen based thrill ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which is housed in a replica of Hogwarts castle, featuring actual props from the films in the queue. In addition, this area includes the family friendly roller coaster Flight of the Hippogriff, the interactive Ollivander's Wand Fitting Experience is where a wand picks a witch or a wizard, and The Frog Choir and Triwizard Rally live shows featured on the outdoor stage. In addition to attractions, the themed area features multiple shops, a Hogwarts Express train picture spot, The Three Broomsticks restaurant, and a variety of outdoor vending carts selling food and drink.
The Studio Tour is a 45 to 60 minute ride which uses tram vehicles to take the visitors from the Theme Park's Upper Lot to the back-lot where actual filming of many shows and movies take place. The tour is the signature ride at the theme park and the wait time varies by day and seasons. The tour begins with a video introduction by Jimmy Fallon and a trip down the hill into the Front Lot. After drifting through the sound stages of the Front Lot and transitioning into the Metropolitan Sets of the back lot. The tram then takes the guests to Courthouse Square section and then other buildings in the back lot. Afterwards, the tram enters a tunnel leading to the attraction: King Kong: 360 3-D. Then the tram travels through sets from Jurassic Park and encounter Dilophosauruses. Following that, the tram travels to the Flash Flood attraction. The tram continues through Old Mexico, Six Points Texas, a miniature model of the SS Venture from King Kong, and Little Europe before experiencing Earthquake: The Big One attraction, movie sets themed as Amity Island from Jaws, Whoville from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Bates motel from Psycho, and the crashed plane set from War of the Worlds, before leading to the final attraction on the tour, Fast & Furious: Supercharged based on the Fast & Furious film franchise.
In addition, the Upper Lot contains a French themed avenue with quick service dining, and a replica of Mel's Diner, known for being featured prominently in the Universal classic American Graffiti. Recently opened, a Walking Dead themed attraction that mixes animatronics with real actors.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a new land that officially opened April 7, 2016. It includes a very family-friendly roller coaster ride and a very intense motion simulator that features major aerobatics. There are also some live shows that take place, the Frog Choir and Ollivander's Wand Show.
The Lower Lot is the smaller of the two lots. There are three thrill rides at this section of the park that each have height restrictions. It is home to Jurassic Park: The Ride, Revenge of the Mummy (where E.T. Adventure once stood) and most recently the home to Transformers: The Ride.
Jurassic Park: The Ride is a water adventure ride that takes visitors through the events of the first film, ending with an 84-foot drop. Outside the ride, currently stands The Raptor Encounter show that happens throughout the day, and the Dino-play jungle gym area for children too small to ride. Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride is a high speed indoor roller coaster transporting guests through moments reminiscent of the 1999 Mummy franchise. The newest ride on the Lower Lot is Transformers: The Ride 3D. The ride uses high tech technology to simulate a battle between the Autobots and Decepticons with 4K-3D screens and flight simulator ride vehicles. The Lower Lot also features several gift shops and quick service restaurants.
Universal Studios Hollywood has stated that they want to expand the Lower Lot of their theme park by demolishing sound stages 22 to 29. No additional information has been publically released but is expected to be confirmed within the next five years.
The areas to be added include:
Universal Studios has a number of meetable characters roaming the park grounds, representing many different genres. Some are portrayals of Hollywood icons while others are based on Universal's vast media library.
Universal Studios Hollywood can easily be accessed by public transportation. The Metro Red line subway train runs between Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake, Koreatown, Los Angeles, East Hollywood, and Hollywood.
Passengers can also arrive at the entrance of the theme park entrance by several Metro bus routes. Metro Local lines 150, 155, 224, 240, and Metro Rapid line 750 stop at Lankershim Blvd & Universal Center Drive (front entrance). Metro Local line 165 and Metro Shuttle line 656 Owl stop farther away from the entrance, at Ventura and Lankershim Boulevards. At the front entrance (Universal Center Dr. & Lankershim Blvd), there is a free shuttle tram which directly takes the passengers directly towards the theme park entrance.