Visiting Southern California's 'other' movie studio tours

May 10, 2016, 11:09 AM · Theme park fans visiting or living in Southern California know all about Universal Studios. Since 1964, the Studio Tour has welcomed millions of visitors to Universal City, taking them behind the scenes of one of the world's busiest movie and television production facilities.

But Universal has grown over the decades from a studio tour into a full-fledged theme park, as most recently seen by its ongoing billion-dollar-plus "Evolution" development plan, including this spring's opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. At Universal Studios Hollywood these days, the visitor experience is more geared toward getting immersed in the themes and narratives of popular franchises that going behind those scenes for a spoiler-filled look at their production.

From Universal's annual attendance gains over the past years, it appears that fans love the new direction for the park. But what about movie fans who still want that behind-the-scenes look?

Universal's Studio Tour continues to take fans through its historic back lot, and a VIP version of the tour allows visitors to get off the tram and walk through some of Universal's sets. But some of Southern California's other movie studios are offering tours of their own, which might remind long-time fans of the old Universal tour, back in the days before USH became a Disney-style theme park.

In my Orange County Register column this week, I look at what I think might be the best of those competing tours — the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, located just up the road from Universal Studios Hollywood, in Burbank. Warner Bros. last year revamped its tour, adding a new "Studio 48" conclusion where visitors can walk through the process of creating a film, from scriptwriting to post-production. It's a more interactive experience than riding Universal's tram, less geared at entertaining you than informing you about the process of moviemaking. Take a look.

Fans also can find studio tours at Paramount and Sony, and every once in a while, Disney opens its Burbank headquarters to D23 members for walking tours, too.

Have you visited any of Southern California's "other" studio tours? What did you think?

Replies (7)

May 10, 2016 at 11:38 AM · Being a huge movie fan, I went to Universal, Warner Brother's VIP, and Sony. They were a good combination of styles. Obviously, Universals is a theme park, and the basic way to see the studios is on the attraction. WB has you in trams that allow you to get out from time to time. Sony's was all on foot with a guide. The different approaches were a lot of fun. I will say, as a movie fan, I liked Sony's the best. You saw several active sound stages, saw the sound stage where just about every major motion picture was scored, and got to go to several nooks and crannies the other tours did not allow. The next time I get back to the LA area, I will take the Paramount tour. They all were loads of fun, and all were more than worth it. There was even some pass I was able to get that included all three for a reduced price, but I cannot recall how I got it.
May 10, 2016 at 11:58 AM · We've done the Sony/Columbia Tour and the WB Tour (before the recent changes). Both were pretty similar, but featured sets and soundstages for specific productions that would be of interest to different people (WB still had sets from ER and many other WB TV shows like Friends, while Sony had the Jeopardy/Wheel set along with 2 and a Half Men along with many others). If I remember correctly at the time, the WB tour featured the largest soundstage in SoCal that was still dressed for Angels and Demons (I guess I'm dating myself with that one).

I'd still like to do the Paramount Tour and of course the Disney Studios Tour. What I find most fascinating about the studio tours is to see what they're filming at the time, which makes every tour different. Many of the sound stages are in constant use, and if they're not actually filming, they're in some stage of tear-down or redress, which is interesting in and of itself to see. I also love to watch shows and commercials to see if I can figure out which backlot was used for filming (oodles of commercials are filmed on the WB lot - probably one of their most profitable ventures these days). However, with more and more TV productions moving out of LA, the backlots are seen far more during commercials than during actual programming now.

May 10, 2016 at 12:31 PM · The Warner Brothers tour is fantastic. I'm a big fan of classic movies so it was a great thrill to get to walk down the street those 76 trombones played down. It's so much fun to be on a large golf cart rather than on a huge glamour tram. The experience is much more personal. The recent new additions of video screens hidden inside some of the facades also let you see the streets you have been walking on as they looked fully dressed for filming - an often shocking transformation. On days when there is no filming, you are also taken into a working sound stage. I've seen the Big Bang Theory stage twice. I hope to get up there during a filming some day. The new Stage 48 interactive section is terrific. Some real movie magic was created there and it is a perfect conclusion to the four.
May 10, 2016 at 4:04 PM · Rob is absolutely correct. Disney has no back lot left at all. Most of their shops are gone, etc. Their Archives has a nice lobby area. But you can't go in to the Archives.
But, Warner Bros. has the best MOVIE lot and a fantastic tour. Warner is THE place for a REAL hollywood movie studio tour. And it is personal. And its worth it!
May 10, 2016 at 4:24 PM · My husband and I went on the Warner Brothers tour a couple of years ago. I can't say enough great things about it! Highly recommend going. We saw Billy Gardel and Nyambi Nyambi from Mike and Molly. They both waved at our tram and said hi. Also had Chuck Lorre drive right past us in a golf cart when we were standing by our tram. He also spoke to us. The tour guide was fantastic and entertaining. Also, the trams only take 12 people so it's a really intimate tour. Wish we could have spent more time at the museum though. But overall a 10 out if 10.
May 10, 2016 at 4:29 PM · I'm surprised that Disney hasn't gotten on the studio tour bandwagon (besides Orlando that is), I'm sure they could do a relatively small tour with small groups and charge big bucks. Hey, they even recreated Walt's office.
May 10, 2016 at 6:21 PM · Done the Warner Bros. tour twice now and it is awesome.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive