Universal Studios Hollywood turns 50
Written by Robert Niles
Published: July 15, 2014 at 10:01 AM
On July 15, 1964, Universal Studios Hollywood debuted its pink and white "Glamor Trams," and welcomed visitors back on to its production lot for the first time since the silent movie era.
Some souvenirs from those early Universal tram tours
In true Hollywood fashion, Universal Studios is celebrating turning 50 by ignoring its birthday and getting a facelift instead. Construction continues on the $1 billion-plus "Evolution" plan that already has brought Transformers and Despicable Me into the park, and soon will deliver a new Fast and Furious encounter to the park's famous tram tour, a Springfield dining area next to The Simpsons Ride, and, biggest of all, the Hogsmeade village of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which will open in 2016. These days, Universal's focus appears to be on its future rather than its past.
Not that Universal isn't looking back at all. Wander down to the park's lower lot and you'll find a nice display commemorating the park's history in the Universal Experience exhibit, next to Transformers.
50 years of props and costumes, as well as the park's animatronic ET (evicted by Revenge of the Mummy)
Other than that, though, there are no announced celebrations or events planned to commemorate the anniversary today. So let's wish Universal Studios Hollywood a happy birthday anyway, even if the park seems reticent to honor itself. Oh, and always, if you're in the park today, be sure to ask for Babs.
From Manny Barron on July 15, 2014 at 12:23 PM
I love this park. Been going to it ever since the early 90's. I have many fond memories of Universal Studios Hollywood. Its geography and the fact that it's in a working movie studio make it very unique.
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!
From Anon Mouse on July 15, 2014 at 12:51 PM
The tram tour felt like a real studios tour then. It now seems like an excuse to just visit the sets that saw no action for years. The movie studios don't film much in California due to tax incentives in other states and countries. Just make the tram tour into a ride, which it is.
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.
From Robert Niles on July 15, 2014 at 1:37 PM
"The movie studios don't film much in California due to tax incentives in other states and countries."
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. web site 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.
From Anon Mouse on July 15, 2014 at 2:30 PM
Not kidding. Production is moving away.
"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."
From 22.214.171.124 on July 15, 2014 at 2:26 PM
If you want to see the real sets Anon, you have to pay for it. Take the Universal VIP tour and they'll let you walk on current sets (not filming at the time of course).
From Anon Mouse on July 15, 2014 at 4:58 PM
"you have to pay for it"
Alright, so my suggestions are hand waved. No wonder Universal needs to almost give away its park, while we await Harry Potter.
From 126.96.36.199 on July 15, 2014 at 5:25 PM
Anonmouse: "don't film much" is different than a decline in filming.
From 188.8.131.52 on July 15, 2014 at 5:26 PM
I was there just last month and the crowds at Universal were the biggest - by far - of any of the other parks we had visited in the previous two weeks. Bigger than I ever remembered them in the past. By afternoon you COULD NOT MOVE through that park because of the crowds. Can't imagine why Universal would need to "give away" their park in anticipation of WWoHP in 2016 when the crowds just keep coming in droves.
By the way, we LOVED Transformers and we really enjoyed Minion Mayhem too.
From Stevo B on July 15, 2014 at 7:26 PM
No question that the backlot tour needs some help. Back in the day when the tour was split into two parts with a layover at prop plaza in between it was such a unique experience. But that was when TV production and movie making seemed like magic and it was so exciting to get a glimpse behind the curtain.
From N B on July 15, 2014 at 8:40 PM
This is right up my alley... I am hopelessly infatuated with anything movie related. Going to visit Universal Hollywood someday. I have been to LA quite a few times, but always for business. I'd love to take a day trip from Vegas on the next visit, maybe one night in LA.
From Russell Meyer on July 16, 2014 at 7:01 AM
A lot of movies and TV shows are moving productions to other destinations due to tax incentives and other production cost savings. However, Hollywood is still the epicenter of the entertainment universe. It is still typically cheaper to film in California than anywhere else in the world because all of the professionals live there and suitable working sound stages are available. Sure, many TV shows, particularly ones on cable, that use quite a bit of on-location shooting, film elsewhere (especially Vancouver, BC and New Mexico), but many still are supported by firms in Hollywood, and many still do soundstage and ADR work in California (long-established productions do build stages and recording studios near locations in many instances, but it's still pretty rare, and expensive).
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.
From Anon Mouse on July 16, 2014 at 3:30 PM
The movie studios don't film 'as' much in California due to tax incentives in other states and countries.
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