Studio Tours

Part 2 of 5.

Part 1 – Photos

Part 3 – Exteriors

Part 4 – Sound Stages

Part 5 – Props, Etc

Many of the biggest Hollywood studios offer the public a tour of their studio facilities. Sony, Paramount and Warner Bros have them as stand alone features, Universal includes it as part of its theme park attraction.

When our family took Christmas a trip to southern California in 2002 we did a two-hour tour of Warner Bros studios in Burbank. It was a fantastic experience during a time when great shows like Friends, ER and Everybody Loves Raymond filmed on the lot. No one was working over the holiday, so we got to go into sound stages and see the sets for Friends and ER that were normally closed. We also did the Universal tour, which consists of a tram ride through some recognizable areas of the studio’s backlot and some amusement stages showing fake earthquakes, fires, floods, etc. It’s neat to see places where they filmed Jaws and Back to the Future (which unfortunately burned down a few years ago), but you don’t get to leave the tram or enter any of the working stages. Warner and Universal have a separate, longer tour that goes into more areas of their lots. I took the Warner tour.

The day-long Warner Bros tour includes the same backlot tour and soundstage visit as the shorter tour, but the extra time allows them to stop the tour cart and let you wander around in the backlot to see some of the practical sets. They also take you into the set construction area, mixing stages and prop shops as well as feed you in Warner’s fine dining restaurant. Famed director Richard Donner sat down for lunch at the table next to ours. I was tempted to lean over and tell him his Superman 2 was better.

Taking a studio tour also gives you a different look at how the entertainment industry works. A majority of work at Warners’ lot right now is television because it is more profitable than movies. Its website describes what it all does far better than I could. Hollywood is a damn big business.

Warner is not tied to any broadcast network, so it can play host to shows from across the guide. ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars films there along with several CBS shows such as The Mentalist, Big Bang Theory and Mike & Molly. HBO’s True Blood was set to film an outdoor scene last week. NBC hits Friends, ER and The West Wing filmed there at the same time. In fact, if you look up a show on you can see all the studios involved in its production. The list for Criminal Minds shows how much work it takes to film, edit and distribute a primetime drama.

Next up, Part 3: Exteriors

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