Universal Studios Hollywood is a film studio and theme park in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County, California. About 70% of the studio lies within the unincorporated county island known as Universal City while the rest lies within the city limits of Los Angeles, California. 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.
Outside the theme park, a new, all-digital facility near the Universal Studiosbacklot 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, and Universal CityWalk, which offers a collection of shops, restaurants, an 18-screen Universal Cinema and a seven-story IMAX theater. In 2016, the park hosted 8,086,000 guests, ranking it 15th in the world and 9th among North American parks.
The first studio tour
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 five cents, which also included a boxed lunch with chicken. 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 resulting in 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. One of the early struggles for Universal was coming up with things for young children to do. The existing small Ma & Pa Kettle Petting Zoo was expanded into the Ark Park. This area encompassed the Mt. Ararat petting zoo with over 200 animals and birds representing 30 species and a Noah's Nursery and a Noah's Love Inn playhouse for children and animals. This was followed by the opening of the Animal Actors' School Stage in 1970. In 1968 the Screen Actors Guild enacted a rule prohibiting visitors from most soundstages. This new rule coupled with more productions being shot on location meant the backlot tram tour could not show visitors much in the way of real movie and television production. Jay Stein, President of the Recreation Division championed the idea of creating exciting experiences for visitors in place of viewing actual production. Later that same year, the Flash Flood set was opened and this first special-effects attraction proved to be a hit. 20,000 gallons of water rushed 200 feet down a narrow Mexican village street, uprooting an old tree and threatening to engulf the tram. The Parting of the Red Sea attraction opened in 1973. 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.
On May 7, 2015, Universal Studios announced it formed a partnership with Nintendo to create attractions and merchandises based on Mario and other Nintendo characters. The following year, the area was called "Super Nintendo World", and was confirmed that it would come to Universal Studios Japan in 2020 as well as Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood later on.
On August 13, 2017, Shrek 4D was closed after 14 years to make way for the DreamWorks Theatre attraction.
The International Broadcast Center (IBC) and main press center (MPC) will be located at Universal Studios Hollywood during the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
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, and Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular.
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.
|Attraction||Attraction type||Description||Height requirements|
|Despicable Me Minion Mayhem||3D motion simulator||Guests are transformed into minions and undergo training by navigating an obstacle course. Meanwhile, Gru's daughters try to give Gru a present to commemorate the anniversary of their adoption.||Minimum 40" (102 cm). Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by supervising companion (14 years or older)|
|Silly Swirly||Aerial carousel||Family-friendly carnival ride spins to give guests a 360-degree view of "Super Silly Fun Land".||Children under 48" (122 cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.|
|Super Silly Funland||Play area||A large outdoor wet and dry play area themed to the Despicable Me franchise. It replaced the Coke Soak attraction in 2012.||None|
|Studio Tour||Tram ride||The tour of the Universal Studios back lot, which features backdrops and sets used in many of their films. Also includes attractions King Kong: 360 3-D, Fast & Furious: Supercharged, "Jaws Encounter" and "Earthquake: The Big One".||None|
|The Simpsons Ride||Motion simulator||The Simpsons visit Krustyland to try out the new roller-coaster but things go wrong as Sideshow Bob tries to sabotage the ride.||Minimum 40" (102 cm)|
|The Walking Dead: A Walk-Through Attraction||Interactive Walkthrough Maze||Follow in the footsteps of the human survivors as you battle your way through nightmarish iconic landscapes that bring the most popular cable TV show in history to life!||None|
|Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular||Stunt show||A woman arrives with news of a "Dryland", but rival "smokers" attack on jet skis and boats until a Mariner arrives to fight them off. Jet-skiers and boats, stunt fights, a crashing plane, pyrotechnics.||None|
|Universal's Animal Actors||Live show||A 20-minute show showcasing stunts and tricks from a variety of animals.||None|
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a new land that officially opened April 7, 2016. It includes a family-friendly roller coaster ride and a motion simulator that features aerobatics. There are also live shows that take place, the Frog Choir and Ollivander's Wand Show. In the Hogsmeade, you can purchase souvenirs and food based on the books and films.
|Attraction||Attraction type||Description||Height requirements|
|Flight of the Hippogriff||Roller Coaster||Learn the proper way to approach a Hippogriff before you take off on a family-friendly coaster that spirals and dives around the pumpkin patch, and swoops past Hagrid's hut.||Minimum 39" (99 cm). Children between 39"- 48" (99-122 cm) must be accompanied by a supervising companion.|
|Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey||Dark ride||Make your way through the classrooms of Hogwarts. Then soar above the castle grounds on a ground breaking new ride that lets you join Harry Potter and his friends on an unforgettable thrilling adventure.||Minimum 48" (122 cm)|
|Ollivander’s Wand Fitting Experience||Interactive experience and gift shop||Step inside this small, dusty shop and choose from an array of Ollivanders wands, or purchase replicas of the Harry Potter film characters' wands, Collectible wand sets and more.||None|
|Frog Choir||Live show||This outdoor live show features students of Hogwarts with their singing frogs.||None|
|Triwizard Spirit Rally||Live show||Sharing a stage with the Frog choir, this themed show features men performing martial arts moves and gymnastics with sticks.||None|
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.
|Attraction||Attraction type||Description||Height requirements|
|Jurassic Park: The Ride||Shoot the Chute||Starts as a raft ride through dinosaur exhibits, then things go wrong as dinosaurs get loose in the facility, culminating into a 84-foot plunge.||Minimum 42″ (107 cm). Children 42-48" (107-122 cm) must to be accompanied by a supervising companion (14 years or older).|
|Revenge of the Mummy||Enclosed roller coaster||A 2-minute indoor steel roller coaster that accelerates to 45 miles per hour. Features forward motion and backwards motion.||Minimum 48" (122 cm)|
|Transformers: The Ride||3Ddark ride||A dark ride where the rider's task is to protect the AllSpark from the clutches of Megatron and his cohorts as the car travels through the streets and skyscrapers of Chicago.||Minimum 40" (102 cm). Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a supervising compansion.|
|Raptor Encounter||Live performance and character photos||A live show performed outside the Jurassic Park attraction featuring a "raptor handler" and a velociraptor.||None|
|Dino Play||Play area||An interactive play area with fossils, cargo nets, ladders and slides.||None|
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. The following is a list of characters that are either currently seen in the park or have appeared in the past:
- Alex the Lion, King Julien and the Penguins from Madagascar
- Count Dracula
- Curious George
- Emmett "Doc" Brown from Back to the Future
- Fievel from An American Tail
- Frankenstein's Monster
- Gru, Dru, Margo, Edith, Agnes, Vector, Minions and Purple Minions from Despicable Me
- The Mummy
- Po and Tigress from Kung Fu Panda
- Poppy and Branch from Trolls
- Rocky and Bullwinkle
- Shrek, Donkey, Princess Fiona and Puss in Boots from Shrek
- Winnie Woodpecker
- Woody Woodpecker
Original park characters
Universal Studios Hollywood can easily be accessed by public transportation at Universal City/Studio City. The Metro Red line subway train runs between Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake, Koreatown, 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 takes the passengers directly towards the theme park entrance.
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- ^ abcMacDonald, Brady (October 21, 2008). "Universal Studios Hollywood plans Transformers ride for 2011". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
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- ^Villas-Boas, Antonio (May 7, 2015). "Nintendo's huge new deal with Universal shows just how far it'll go to turn the ship around". Business Insider. Retrieved March 6, 2016.
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Strictly by the numbers, Disneyland is packed with more attractions and draws more than twice as many visitors as Universal Studios Hollywood.
But Universal Studios Hollywood's attendance has been growing faster than Disneyland's, and the L.A. park has been adding new attractions at a greater pace.
Theme parks refuse to divulge numbers, but an annual report by Los Angeles engineering firm Aecom and the Themed Entertainment Assn. trade group estimated that Disneyland hosted 16.8 million visitors in 2014, a 3.5% increase over the previous year. Universal Studios Hollywood welcomed 6.8 million visitors, an 11% increase over the previous year, the study said.
From 2010 through 2014, Universal Studios Hollywood saw annual attendance rise by 1.8 million visitors, or 36%. During the same period, Disneyland's annual attendance increased by about 800,000 visitors, or 5%.
The rapid attendance growth comes courtesy of several big-ticket attractions that Universal Studios Hollywood has added in the last four years.
In 2012, Universal Studios Hollywood opened Transformers: the Ride 3D, followed in 2014 by the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride and Super Silly Fun Land. The park launched Fast and Furious: Supercharged last year as well as Springfield, a city block of eateries inspired by the fictional town in the TV show "The Simpsons."
Just in time to draw vacationers this summer, Universal Studios Hollywood plans to open a permanent haunted maze based on the AMC series "The Walking Dead." The park has tapped the show's executive producer and frequent director, Gregory Nicotero, to oversee the creation of the animatronic zombies.
Although several attractions and parades have been overhauled in the last few years, Disneyland hasn't built a major ride from scratch since it added the interactive Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in 2005.
In fact, Disneyland has closed 10 attractions and eateries — some temporarily and some permanently — to make way for the "Star Wars" expansion project near Big Thunder Mountain.
Disneyland has retooled several attractions to appeal to fans of "Star Wars," acquired by Disney along with Lucasfilm for $4 billion in 2012. An underused area in the Innovations building of Tomorrowland has been converted into Star Wars Launch Bay, a hall where parkgoers can play "Star Wars" video games, buy merchandise and meet costumed characters from the films.