Yes, I still miss my dear Back to the Future, but the park has some truly great attractions and the future is very bright for this gem!
The tour is a bit rough in my opinion with an uncomfortably bumpy ride. Very hot in the summer or very cold in the winter. Very long clocking at 1 hour. Trim it down and offer an enclosed air conditioned tram so you'll feel like a VIP. Break the ride into two segments (2 separate tours). A ride portion for the Flood, Jaws, Earthquake, King Kong, and the anticipated Fast and Furious that can be in a open air tram. A set tour in an air conditioned tram with a portion where you can visit an actual set just like what the original tours used to do.
You're kidding, right?
Southern California remains the leading place for television and film production, despite runaway deals to other locations. Production in the region is non-stop, including at the studio facilities.
However, no studio tour is going to take you to see an active production, because no active production wishes to be interrupted by a studio tour. At least Universal's tram tour provides action for you to watch, even if it is manufactured exclusively for the tour. I've been on most of the other studio tours in the LA area and, lemme tell ya, walking around darkened, silent stages and empty offices as guides steer you away from hot sets gets pretty boring pretty quickly.
If you really want to see a production in action, get yourself some free tickets to a TV show taping. The most convenient place to pick those up while visiting LA is at... yep, Universal Studios Hollywood.
"More than 30 countries and 44 U.S. states now offer tax breaks to filmmakers."
I don't know how much they are filming in California, but for Universal to still have the same tired sets from Tom Cruises "War of the Worlds" set (2005) and the "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" set (2000) as part of the tram tour is showing how tired the whole tram tour is.
I didn't say the set should be "hot", but they should show something that approximates a real set as that is what you'll expect from a studios tour.
I've been to TV show tapings. In fact, I seen The Tonight Show and other TV programs, but I'm just saying a studios tour can approximate the same effect even if artificial.
"LA’s drama tally went from 12 to an all-time low five this year, pushing the city to No. 2 behind New York and tied with Vancouver, which slipped from last year’s seven."
Alright, so my suggestions are hand waved. No wonder Universal needs to almost give away its park, while we await Harry Potter.
By the way, we LOVED Transformers and we really enjoyed Minion Mayhem too.
Movies almost always contain location footage, but much of the soundstage work is done in Hollywood. Reason---Hollywood still has the largest array of soundstages in the world, and has the manpower to dress virtually any set for any production. While some productions are looking to lower costs by shipping some work out of California, the entertainment industry in the state is still very strong.
On the Universal Tram Tour, it's pretty cool, but I'm not a huge fan of the manufactured aspect of it. It's far more ride/show than studio tour. I much prefer the walk through a cold set in a small group with a tour guide that can answer specific questions than sitting on a tram with 200 people with a video-taped presentation. We've done Sony/Columbia, WB, and Universal, and I enjoyed the first two over the later. However, the cost for those studio tours is pretty close to a ticket to Universal Studios and the real studios don't have any other rides.
The number of productions filming in Hollywood has been relatively steady over the past 10 or so years. However, the percentage of total productions filming in California has probably decreased. There are simply far more shows filming now than in the past to feed the amount of content necessary to fill so many more networks than just a decade ago. The term "57 Channels and Nothing On" was apropos in the 90's when Bruce Springsteen penned it, but is nothing compared to the amount of content necessary to fill the schedules of hundreds of cable, satellite, and internet channels. There's just far more content and more productions than there were 10 years ago, meaning that Hollywood either needed to increase the number of stages and studios, or productions would need to look elsewhere. Now, the tax incentives and other perks of filming in other locations certainly has an effect, but based on the existing inventory of studios and soundstages in Southern California, it would be difficult (and expensive) to have the same percentage of productions filming in the region as there were a decade ago.
However, there's no doubt that producers are crude business people, and will do whatever it takes to shrink productions costs. SyFy actually leased a portion of the Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii to film multiple movies because it was easier and cheaper to lease the locations and film multiple movies at once rather than scout locations one at a time (Kualoa Ranch is a famous filming location for Jurassic Park, Lost, and many others). So, yes, if producers think it's going to be cheaper to shoot on location in New Mexico (Breaking Bad), Vancouver (Battlestar Galactic and many other Syfy shows), Georgia (Walking Dead), and others, they'll do it, but still for many productions, it can be cheaper and more efficient to shoot in California. Most multi-camera productions still shoot in California, along with most game shows, many reality TV shows, and a lot of late night programming.
Viewers and fans have also encouraged this push to film on location with the obsessive attention to detail and desire to see more and more diverse content. Producers can no longer fool savvy viewers with HD TVs like they could on an 80's "boob" tube. Consumers want as close to the real thing as they can get, and a set on a sound stage detailed enough to look like the real place when view on an HDTV can often be more expensive to shoot on than the real location, even with travel and other considerations (the same can go with green screen with more productions finding cheaper ways to shoot on green screen stages and insert CGI that can be as cost effective as filming on location or on a dressed set).
There are also a number of locations where producers would love to film that they can't because it is cost prohibitive, like Washington, DC (where I live). It drives me crazy to watch any movie or TV that is set in DC that obviously doesn't film here, or when they do, they only do second unit work, which is sloppily thrown into establishing shots and transitions.
"On-location filming in Los Angeles sank 19% last year compared with 2008, the steepest year-over-year decline since tracking began in 1993, according to FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and parts of the county."
If you go to the FilmL.A. Inc website, download the pdf file. There is a steady decline in filming in Hollywood/LA. There was no recovery since the height of film permits in 1996 (14,000), and a slight increase in 2005(9000+) and 2013 (7000+).
You wrote a lot of nonsense about fans wanting film to be shot on location. Often locations shoots in Toronto is not about this Canadian town. The buildings are generic enough to substitute for any American city including Los Angeles. Hardly any movies filming in Vancouver and Toronto are actually about a movie set in that location.
If visited Universal, even a modicum of sitting in the audience, you'll know a sound stage can be filmed in any location regardless of the subject matter. The exterior shots are irrelevant and can be done cheaply. Most dramas and sitcoms are filmed on soundstages. The exception are for the shows that need plenty of outdoor scenes like the Walking Dead.