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Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood is a movie studio and theme park in the unincorporated Universal City, California community of Los Angeles County, California, United States. It is one of the oldest and most famous Hollywood movie studios still in use. Its official marketing headline is "The Entertainment Capital of LA", though during the summer it is often advertised as "The Coolest Place in LA." It was initially created to offer tours of the real Universal Studios soundstages and sets. It is the first of many full-fledged Universal Studios Theme Parks located across the world. Woody Woodpecker is the mascot for Universal Studios Hollywood. The entrance to the theme park may be accessed by the Metro Red Line subway line at Universal City Station and other Metro bus routes.

Outside the theme park, Universal City includes hotels Universal Hilton & Towers, the Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, the multi-screen Globe Theatre, often used for banquets and receptions, and Universal CityWalk, which offers a collection of shops and restaurants.

History

The first studio tour

Universal Studios Uniglobe

The famous Universal Globe At Universal Studios Hollywood.

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.

The arrival of Universal Studios Hollywood (the theme park)

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-throughs, peeks at actual production, and later, staged events. This grew over the years into a full-blown theme park. The narrated tram tour (formerly "GlamorTrams") 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.

Backlot fires

Universal Studios Hollywood's backlot has been damaged by fire nine times throughout its history. The first was in 1932 when embers from a nearby brush fire were blown towards the backlot 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 backlot. The New York Street set, the Ben Hur set and the majority of Courthouse Square was destroyed. In 1997, the seventh fire occurred at the backlot. 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 backlot of Universal Studios. The fire started when a worker using an acetylene torch for welding accidentally let it set fire to the surroundings. 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 & OrderThe Office, and Miami Vice, and CBS's I Love Lucy. Many audio master tapes from Universal Music have been destroyed as well. Universal president Ron Meyer stated that nothing irreplaceable was lost, meaning everything could be rebuilt again at a price of at least $50 million. 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.

Attraction history

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. In 1980, Universal Studios Hollywood replaced The Land of a Thousand Faces with the Castle Dracula Live Show. The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show also opened in the same year. In 1983, The Adventures of Conan: A Sword and Sorcery Spectacular opened, replacing the Castle Dracula Live Show. In 1984, The Screen Test Theatre was closed and replaced by Star Trek Adventure. The A-Team Live Stunt Show also opened. In 1986, the park added the King Kong Encounter to the Studio Tour. The following year the A-Team Live Stunt Show was replaced with Miami Vice Action Spectacular.

In 1990, An American Tail and Fievel's Playland opened on the Upper Lot. This was followed by the opening of E.T. Adventure, Lucy: A Tribute and The World of CineMagic in 1991. In 1992, Backdraft and Rocky and Bullwinkle Live opened. Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue also began, replacing The Adventures of Conan: A Sword and Sorcery Spectacular on the Upper Lot. In 1993, the Battle of Galactica event on the Studio Tour was removed and the area was utilised for Back to the Future: The Ride. In 1994, Spectrablast opened for a limited season. Both Spectrablast and Miami Vice Action Spectacular were replaced later in the year by Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular. The Flintstones Show opened, replacing the Star Trek Adventure. 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 Walkthrough 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 2002, the Special Effects Stages replaced The World of CineMagic, Spider-Man Rocks opened where Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue once stood and The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom replaced Chicken Run Walkthrough. The Wild Wild Wild West Stunt Show was also closed and has yet to receive a replacement. In 2003, Shrek 4-D replaced Rugrats Magic Adventure on the Upper Lot. Additionally, E.T Adventure was closed to make way for Revenge of The Mummy The Ride which opened in the following year. In 2004, Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula replaced The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom. The following year, Fear Factor Live replaced Spider-Man Rocks. In 2007, Universal's House of Horrors opened, replacing Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula. Both Lucy: A Tribute and Back to the Future: The Ride were closed, prior to being replaced in 2008 by The Simpsons Ride and The Universal Story Museum respectively. Also in 2008, the Nickelodeon Blast Zone was rebranded 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 Backdraft 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 3D: Battle Across Time for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, the attraction at Universal Studios Florida, set to come in the April of 2014.

Universal Studios Hollywood has plans to open The Wizarding World of Harry Potter which will feature the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride sometime in 2016.

Park layout

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 January 2014, Universal Studios Hollywood contains 5 shows, 5 rides, and 1 play area for children. Each lot features a collection of rides, shows and attractions as well as food, beverage and merchandise shops.

Upper lot

The Upper lot is home to a variety of family based shows. It is also home to many dining and merchandise shops as well as the park's entrance. For older guests the park offers Universal's House of Horrors, a year-round haunted house. The Upper lot is home to all of the park's 5 shows including The Blues Brothers Revue, 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. There are 2 rides located on the upper lot which include: the Studio Tour and the The Simpsons Ride are offered. The Studio Tour is a 45 minute ride which uses tram vehicles to take the visitors to the theme park's back-lot. The tour is the signature ride at the theme park and the wait time varies by day and seasons. The wait time ranges from 5–80 minutes, depending on the amount of visitors. The tour includes King Kong: 360 3-D, the world's largest 3-D experience. The tram closes earlier than other shows and rides at the park. The trams depart the station and pass directly under the "Starway". After passing the starway, the tram arrives at the lower lot and passes through the stages where film productions take place. When filming occurs, the ride operator will notify visitors. The tram then takes the guests to the Courthouse Square section and then other buildings in the backlot. Afterwards, the tram enters a tunnel leading to the attraction: King Kong 360 3D. After King Kong 360 3D, the tram travels through sets from Jurassic park and encounter Dilophosauruses. Following that, the tram travels to the Flash Flood attraction (it is to be noted guests on the left side of the tram usually get wet). The tram continues to Earthquake: The Big One attraction, and Bates motel from Psycho. The Simpsons Ride is a family simulator ride located next to the entrance to the Studio Tour ride. The ride contains 24 vehicles, where each vehicles seats 8 guests. The ride lasts for 4 minutes. None of the rides at the Upper lot have single rider lines.

There are several themed retail outlets located near their respective rides in the Upper lot. For the Simpsons merchandise is offered at the Kwik-E-Mart.

In homage to Back to the Future: The Ride, which once occupied the area where The Simpsons Ride now stands, Doc Brown's Chicken shop remained open until 2014, however it closed down in April, most likely to be rethemed for Springfield, the new Simpsons land.

Rides

Ride Year Opened Description Height Requirements
Studio Tour July 15, 1964 The signature ride of the park. A 40-60 minute ride on a tram to Universal's movie studio back-lot. Includes King Kong 360 attraction, JAWS, and Earthquake. Some effects may be too intense for young children. No minimum height requirement. Small children are highly recommended to be guided by a guardian. Small children are typically assign seats in the middle aisle of the tram for safety reasons.
Shrek 4-D May 23, 2003 A family friendly 4-D film that follows the adventures of Shrek No hand held infants
The Simpsons Ride May 19, 2008 A family friendly simulator ride adventure through Springfield. All guests must be at least 40 inches or taller to ride.

Lower lot

The Lower lot is the smaller of the two lots. There are three thrill rides at this section of the park. All three of the rides have certain height and ride restrictions. It is home to Jurassic Park: The Ride, The NBC Universal Experience, 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. Revenge of the Mummy is a high speed in-door roller coaster. It is considered by some guests as the "scariest/most intense ride" of the park. The last and newest ride at the lower lot is Transformers: The Ride. Transformers: The ride uses high tech technology to simulate 3D technology. It is somewhat similar to the Simpsons Ride, but with actual vehicle movement and includes more intense movements than the Simpsons Ride. This is currently the most packed ride at the theme park and the ride with the longest wait time. All 3 rides on the lower lot have a single rider line. A single rider can use the single rider as many times he/she may desire to use.

Similar to other Universal theme parks around the world, where duplicates of Jurassic Park: The Ride exist, the area surrounding the ride features a Jurassic Park merchandise shop named Jurassic Outfitters and a dining facility named Jurassic Café. Similarly a Revenge of the Mummy gift shop, called Tomb Treasures, greets guests as they exit that ride.

Rides

Ride Year Opened Description Height Requirements
Jurassic Park: The Ride June 21, 1996 A Shoot the Chute water ride about the Jurassic Park adventure. The only water ride at the park. Each boat carries up to 25 guests. The water ride lasts for 5:30 minutes. Features several types of dinosaurs. Ride ends with an 84 foot plunge splashdown. All riders must be 42 inch or taller to ride.
Revenge of the Mummy June 25, 2004 A 2 minute indoor steel roller with speeds up to 45 miles per hour. Features forward motion and backwards motion. Most intense ride due to very aggressive drops, climbs, and turns. Guests of serious health conditions are not recommended to ride. All guests must be at least 48 inches or taller to ride.
Transformers: The Ride May 24, 2012 A four and half minute dark ride featuring 4K-3D projection technology, flight simulation, physical and special effects about the transformers franchise. Each vehicle accommodates up to 12 guests per vehicle. Includes moderate simulation movements of acceleration, climbs and drops. All guests must be 40 inches or taller to ride. Children 40-48 inches must be accompanied by a supervising adult.

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