For more than a generation, Universal Studios was the place to go in the Los Angeles area when fans wanted to visit a movie studio. Universal's "Glamor Trams" took thousands of visitors a day through the studio's back lot, where they could see and learn how movies and television shows were made.
Over the years, though, movie fans have found other places to learn about the art and craft of filmmaking, including through DVD extras, cable television shows, and now, countless YouTube videos. At the same time, Universal discovered that there was more money to be made as a full-fledged theme park, where people could lose themselves in immersive stories and settings, rather than simply visiting the workplace where those stories were made. Universal still offers its Studio Tour, though with additions such as the recent Fast & Furious - Supercharged finale, it has become more about reconstructing iconic movie moments than deconstructing them.
So where can movie fans go now to get their authentic look behind the scenes at the movie making process?
Warner Bros is hoping that visitors will find their answer by driving about a mile up the street. Tonight, the studio unveiled "Stage 48: Script to Screen," an expansion of its rebranded Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood.
Warner Bros. has enjoyed amazing success over the past couple years with its Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: The Making of Harry Potter in Leavesden, England. Now, the studio again has called upon the design team at Thinkwell, which created the Potter studio experience, to expand the Hollywood tour. Stage 48 takes visitors through the process of making a movie, from screenwriting, casting, design, filming and post-production.
Since this is a walk-through, you can take it at your own pace, choosing to stop and look at the details of The Matrix storyboards, or just breezing past to the next photo op...
...such as the alien from Mars Attacks!, in the set design section.
Warner Bros has relocated two famous TV sitcom sets to Stage 48, including the Central Perk set from Friends,
And the living room from Two and a Half Men, complete with the backstage growth chart for star Angus T. Jones.
Thinkwell and Warner Bros have done commendable work to showcase the latest in cinematic arts technology, including the Light Box from Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, an innovative way to ensure that the camera recorded convincing light and shadow on its actors during that movie's space scenes.
Among the photo opps in Stage 48 is a "Forced Perspective Table," where one person can be Gandalf-sized while the other appears to be the size of a Hobbit.
The exhibit illustrates how the right angle totally changes the shot, as seen when you take a step to one side and look at the scene again.
In the post-production exhibits, you can turn knobs under video screens to step through the process of layering videography with computer animation and special effects lighting to create scenes from films such as The Fellowship of the Ring and The Matrix.
Or you can step onto one of half a dozen green screen sets for a take on a Harry Potter broomstick, a Bat Cycle, or in one of the astronaut suits from Gravity. (This is the tour's upsell opportunity, should you wish to buy a photo or video of your scene.)
The final exhibit is an eight-minute show that breaks down the process of sound editing and mixing for Gravity, which won multiple Academy Awards in these categories.
Of course, with this being a VIP preview night, you could find some very important very important people on hand, including legendary Hollywood star and director Clint Eastwood.
Two and Half Men Star Jon Cryer joined Warner Bros executives in dedicating the Stage 48 expansion, which opens to the public on Thursday. Cryer poked fun at rival Universal during his remarks, noting that this wasn't a tour "that would have you believe that part of the movie-making process is being attacked by a shark." Pausing, he continued, "well... actually that does happen on some productions."
The Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood costs $62 per person, and includes a backlot tram tour in addition to the Stage 48 walk-through. Reservations must be made in advance on its website.
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