The tour has so many highlights, and even when you feel like it might be running dry, it grabs you again and finishes on such an emotional note that I saw many a grown-up having a little weep. (Don't do too much research before you go - it's better that you don't know what's coming up round the corner.)
Even a colleague who wasn't especially interested but was dragged along by his wife was completely taken in and told me that they couldn't wait to go back again.
I did like the Sony/Columbia tour a little better than the WB tour, but it's really just a matter of taste. On the Sony tour, we got to walk through the "Angels and Deamons" Sistine Chapel set on the Sony tour, which I thought was far more impressive than the "Two and a Half Men" set on the WB lot. The route of the tours is contantly changing because of the activity on the studios, so what you may be allowed to see on Monday at 2 PM will be dramatically different from where the tour goes on Thursday at 10 AM. However, you should always try to do a tour on a weekday (Monday-Thursday), because that's when the sets are the most active.
We have yet to do the Paramount tour, but have heard it's similar, but it is the "grandaddy" of the bunch.
I love movies, but I was disappointed because it's mostly TV which I barely watch.
The tour is constantly changing, and unfortunately since TV shows are always filming, especially at the WB lot which produces a wide variety of popular shows, they are typically the highlights of the tour. You could always ask the tour guide ahead of time if there are any cold movie sets that can be included in the tour.
We were on the tour with just 4 other guests (we did it in October on a weekday), so through me asking lots of questions, the guide tailored the tour to parts of the lot that would be more interesting to us. Ultimately, it does come down to what parts of the lot are available to tours, and if the studio is really busy, there can be a lot of hot sets that are strictly prohibited to tourists. Also, the increasing level of secrecy that directors and producers are putting into their production makes visiting a set from an upcoming major motion picture virtually impossible. With decreasing sound stage space and high demand, sets are torn down almost immediately following the wrap so the next production can start constructing their sets.
As long as a TV show is not actively filming, their sets stay in one place as long as the show stays in production...So unfortunately, Hollywood studio tours are going to focus more on those when touring the soundstages. Additionally, more and more major movies and TV shows are doing principle photography on location due to tax incentives and to lower production costs. Even big effects-laden productions are shifting a lot of shooting to real locations instead of building intricate sets on Hollywood soundstages. Depending on where you live, you probably have a better chance seeing a moving filming in your closest major city than you do at a Hollywood studio.
Loving these SoCal sidetrip reviews, Robert. We're there for ten days next month so every bit of intel helps.
You get a ton of access to people and places that you cant get anyway else (other than being a star).
I only did it for one month, but in that time I got to got to all the major studios, Bob Hopes house, Casey Kasem's house, and plenty of other fancy houses in the hills, pacific palisades, and beverly hills.
The best day was when I had to deliver some pots and pans (I think they were props) to the Universal Lot. The security at the studios is pretty tight to get on the lot, but once you are on its like they dont care where you go. I couldnt find the "sound stage" (It was just a trailer) I was looking for so I just wandered around for about 30 minutes. It was a friday so there was no filming and no one noticed me. It was like a private tour. Once I finally found the place I was looking for the PAs and other production staff were the nicest people I had ever delivered too and made a miserable day a work pretty great. They helped me find my next location which was a production bungalow on the other side of the lot. All the major directors have bungalows there and it was great to see where their teams do a lot of their work (the directors arent their themselves I assume).
Fox, Universal, and WB are the lots that have working outdoor sets. I have seen the Fox and Universal ones and can identify them on TV with ease now. WB has an outside drop off for deliveries so I never got on that lot, which was a bummer. These pictures were great to finally see some of it.