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The 'other' studio tours of Los Angeles

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Published: July 7, 2011 at 3:59 PM

As theme park fans, we all know about the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.

But Universal's tour isn't the only opportunity for visitors to see a working film and television production facility in the Los Angeles area.

Warner Bros., Burbank
The two-and-a-half hour $49 "VIP" tour takes you on a cart around the Warner Bros. backlot, which is home to the new "Conan" show as well as "The Big Bang Theory," among others. If you want to drop a few more bucks, sign up for the $250 "Deluxe" tour, which runs five hours and includes lunch in the studio commissary. You can book your tickets online.

Paramount, Hollywood
Paramount's two-hour studio tour costs $45 and takes you around the facility where "Glee" and Nickelodeon's "Big Time Rush" shoot. There's no online booking; you'll have to call 323-956-1777 to reserve a date and time.

Sony, Culver City
Sony's $33 walking tour lasts about two hours and will take you past the sound stages for "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune" as well as past some historic sets, such as those used in films such as "Men in Black." You can book online or reserve a custom group tour by calling 310-244-8687.

Universal, Universal City
For comparison, Universal's Studio Tour is a 45-minute drive through the backlot. You won't get close to live filming, but you will see historic sets, in addition to the King Kong 360/3D, Jaws and Earthquake attractions. The tour is part of a full-day admission, which is available online for $77.

Of course, filming abounds in the Los Angeles area. My wife and I were watching Legally Blonde on TV last week, and it took me a moment to realize that what the movie was passing off as Harvard Law School was, in fact, the hallway of our kids' elementary school in Pasadena. The LA film office used to publish a daily "shoot sheet," which told you what would be in production where on streets throughout Los Angeles, but it doesn't due that any longer due to "security concerns." So if you want to see film production "in the wild," just drive around looking for yellow rectangular signs with black block lettering, posted on street corners, then follow their arrows. Those are directional signs set out for film and TV crews, so they know where to park. Find one, and you'll find a production going on within a few blocks. You might not be able to get close enough to see any stars, but you can say you've seen a TV show or movie being filmed "in Hollywood."

Readers' Opinions

From 148.126.100.80 on July 7, 2011 at 4:14 PM
I've had a great time on both Paramount and Warner Bros. tours, and would love to go again. However, aren't there age limits for the tours?
From M. Ryan Traylor on July 7, 2011 at 4:26 PM
The Warner Bros I think is the best VIP tour. Sony is too small. WB is always busy. Always. My parents took that tour back when West Wing was still around.

It always fun trying to guess what shows the yellow and black signs are for. One of my favorites was "OCD" for "Monk". Also you will never see a yellow sign in Santa Monica. The city doesn't allow them to be posted.

From Daniel Etcheberry on July 7, 2011 at 4:27 PM
I went to the Warner Bros. tour and I was disappointed. Almost everything is about TV series (which I don't watch) and very few is about movies (which I love and was the reason to go there on the first place). Also, soundstages are ugly; they look like werehouses.

I should have gone to the Universal tour; it is more fake, but it must be more fun.

From Anthony Murphy on July 7, 2011 at 8:59 PM
And Disney..........................

Ok, the big shock is that Disney does NOT have one. They have a special trip thing, but its alot of money. I think it would be historic to visit there. The place where Walt Disney thought up Disneyland, Snow White, and Mary Poppins? Are you kidding me??? I would give my left arm to see that!

But good list. That was my favorite kinda nerdy thing in California!

From Robert Niles on July 7, 2011 at 10:21 PM
The age limits are:
Warner Bros.: 8 and older
Paramount: I've heard 10 and older, but haven't been able to confirm
Sony: 12 and older
Universal: No limit
From Steph Ramos on July 8, 2011 at 12:10 AM
Lol....I had no clue those infamous yellow signs posted randomly around town were actually directions for movie/tv production companies untill earlier this year when a friend of mine discovered that CSI: Miami was filming on our campus. About a week into filming, the school newspaper published an article on the subject and revealed the big "Yellow Signage" secret as well as a list of all the filming that had been done around town in LBC...imagine my surprise when I discovered that part of Inception had been filmed just 25 minutes away!
From Joseph Catlett on July 8, 2011 at 7:32 AM
My favorite part of the WB Tour is the studio archives. The bottom floor is filled with OSCARS and tons of movie costumes and props. However, the upper floor is the highlight for my wife and I, as it is fully dedicated to the Harry Potter films. There are dozens and dozens of props, costumes and set pieces, you even get to try on the Sorting hat and be sorted into a Hogwarts house. I was Slytherin and my wife was Gryffindor ....as I reminded her later, "Its no big deal, that you're in Gryffindor...after all nobody's perfect."
Boy did I catch it for that comment. ;O)
From Ray Schroeder on July 8, 2011 at 11:36 AM
I did the Warner Bros. and Sony tours six years ago. They were great if you're into the behind the scene workings of TV and Movies.We got to hang out on the outdoor sets of Gilmore Girls, ER, the movie Rent. We saw the indoor sets of Joey, King of Queens, the movie Zorro, The Poseidon Adventure II, Jeopardy. We went to the painting workshop where we saw them painting backdrops. We went to sound stages where they filmed the Wizard of Oz and other classics. We even saw a few celebrities walking around. It's a must do in SoCal.
From 173.74.149.36 on July 9, 2011 at 7:19 AM
Many years ago I was visiting LA for the first time. Our hotel was downtown. A friend and I were meeting others for dinner and we wrote down walking directions to the restaurant. (This was before the smart phones of today.) We got endlessly lost and the street signs didn't match our map. Very frustrating. Ends up they had changed the street signs and were filming a scene for the movie Daredevil. Hysterical! We thought we were nuts. We didn't see any stars, but we did get to watch them do a stunt with cars ... and eventually, we made it to the restaurant with a great story to tell.
From Robert Niles on July 9, 2011 at 9:39 AM
Hilarious! I've lost count of the number of times I've gone to a restaurant in LA, only to discover that it had "closed" and been converted into something else... only to find out later that the restaurant is still there; it'd just been used for filming on that day I was there.

Sometimes filming has an upside, though. When Universal was filming "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" at my kids' elementary school, they needed to film inside classrooms during a weekday. (I think they ran over their scheduled weekend shoot.) So Universal rented a couple buses and shipped all the kids in that wing of the school off to Universal Studios Hollywood for free during the day that they were filming. Every student in the school also got a free USH duffle bag (I think ours are still around here somewhere), and Adam Sandler signed a bunch of schwag for our annual school auction. The school picked up overtime filming fees too - more money for the PTA.

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