There are lots of new studios opening all across the country nowadays, but the main place for the entertainment industry is still Los Angeles. When you’re in LA, you have to make sure you go on the Hollywood studio tours to see where they make movies and TV shows. It’s like getting a sneak peek behind the scenes of the big screen magic. You can go to the same places where they film your favorite movies and shows, which is a super exciting way to experience the glamorous city of Los Angeles. You’ll see backlots, stages where they film, and even old-fashioned sets. And guess what? Sometimes you might even see them filming something while you’re there! Not sure which studio tour to choose? We’ve made a list of the best ones with all the important details about each studio, like famous shows or movies they made, who can go, and other things you should know.
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1. Warner Bros Studios
Unlike Universal Studios, which is an amusement park with a limited tour of the movie studios, the visit to Warner is a visit to some real movie studios, where you can see the outdoor sets and sets where many series and films and famous movies are filmed ,and if you are a bit lucky, you might see some famous people there resting. There’s no attraction at Warner Studios.
So, this visit is highly recommended for movie lovers who want to know a little about the ins and outs, the filming sets and the sets of a great production.
Warner Bros. (also known as WB) studios are located in Burbank, a city that is part of Los Angeles County, on the other side of the Hollywood Hills. The company was founded in 1923 by 4 brothers (Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack) and is currently one of the largest and most important film studios in the world.
Famous movies have been shot here such as; Casablanca, Wonder Woman, Harry Potter, Aquaman, Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, Matrix, Joker, Hobbit, La La Land, etc.
And series as popular as; Friends, ER or The Big Bang Theory.
How is the visit of Warner Bros Studios?
To visit the Warner Bros studios you have to join the guided tour “Warner Bros Studios Tour”.
It is a tour with a lot of demand and with a limit of participants, so the tickets sell out quickly. If you plan to travel to Los Angeles during the holidays and want to visit these studios, it is advisable to buy tickets as far in advance as possible.
The tour is done in golf carts accompanied by a guide who will explain what you are seeing and anecdotes about the movies that were filmed there. These guides are usually actors, so almost all of them are funny and make the visit very enjoyable.
The standard itinerary can change depending on the recordings that are taking place at the time of the visit, but there are things that are always seen; The Central Perk from Friends, the car collection or the Harry Potter part.
It is forbidden to take photos and film in many places, the guide will tell you where you can and where you cannot. It is also forbidden to greet or take photos with actors and actresses, if you are lucky enough to see one, so as not to disturb them at work.
How to book tickets for Warner Bros Studios?
Tickets must be purchased as far in advance as possible as demand is very high. The tours have limited places, since it goes through some studios that are in operation and there can be no large groups.
The price of the tour is approx. €60 per person and lasts 3 hours.
What’s on the Warner Bros Studio Tour?
1. Shooting sets or exterior scenes
They are scenarios that reproduce, almost life-size, streets, buildings, towns, parks, etc. These scenarios are transformed depending on the movie or series that is recorded.
You will be able to see streets like Hennesy Street or New York Street that are fantastic copies of the streets of New York or Chicago. Here scenes from movies such as; Annie, Dick Tracy, Blade Runner or Spiderman. And series like; Friends, Sex in New York or ER.
You will also see Midwest Street, the longest set of Warner Bros. Studios, where a typical town in the United States is recreated, with its church, its park, its houses, etc. Scenes from Rebel Without a Cause, Gremlins, Growing Trouble, etc. were filmed here.
Another of the most impressive sets is Warner Village, where a New England residential neighborhood is recreated. Here the buildings are real, in fact, they are used as offices.
Finally, you will see “The Jungle”, a scenario that recreates a forest or a jungle. Scenes from: The Goonies, Million Dollar Baby and The Mentalist were filmed here.
2. Stages or recording studios
These are the sets where interior scenes are shot. You will see a lot of movement on these sets, it is because things are constantly being recorded. Ask the guides, they will tell you which movie or series is being recorded. With a bit of luck you will be able to see some famous actor there.
No shooting on weekends. On the one hand, it is interesting because you will be able to see a set of a current series that is being filmed on those dates. But, on the other hand, you will have less chance of seeing someone famous.
You will see at the entrance of each stage a plaque indicating the films and series that were recorded there. You will also see some lights, if the red one is on it means that at that moment it is being recorded and you cannot pass.
Stage 48 “Script to Screen” (from the script to the screen). In this interactive stage you will live an immersive experience that will offer you a practical introduction to the world of cinema. The guide will explain the process they follow to create a film or series; from the creation of the script, the castings, the choice of sets and exteriors, the special effects, etc. This part of the tour is one of the most liked.
Here you will also find one of the great claims of Warner Bros, the recreation of Central Perk, the bar where the characters from the Friends series met. Actually, this series was recorded in other stages, but the demand to see things related to this series was so high, that they decided to leave the Central Park stage fixed so that visitors could see it.
In Central Perk all the original material is preserved, including the sofa, where you can take a photo.
Stage 16 is one of the largest soundstages in the world. Here scenes that require large spaces are shot, such as “The Perfect Storm.”
3. Departments of Studies
During the tour you will visit some Warner departments, such as where they design and make the costumes for the films, the department where the special effects are created, the post-production department, etc.
You will also see the collection of vehicles “The Picture Car Vault”, where they keep more than 500 copies of cars, motorcycles and other means of transport used in films and series such as the batmobile, the Great Gatsy car or the Scooby Doo van.
Finally, another of the most interesting departments is “The Archive”, where they keep more than 200,000 objects used in movies and series. All these objects are available to any production that needs them. Here you will find decorative objects, clothing, accessories, furniture, etc.
2. Paramount Pictures Studio in Hollywood
Paramount studios are, like Warner’s, authentic film and television studios. It is possible to visit them on one of the organized tours.
Paramount is the only major film studio still operating in the Hollywood area and is a great example of what the golden years of cinema were like at the beginning of the 20th century. They were founded in 1912 by Adolph Zukor and in 1926 they settled in the same place where they are currently.
Paramount studios reflect the evolution of the film industry in Los Angeles, from the days of silent movies, the birth of sound and the rise of television, to our times, where technology is capable of anything.
The buildings that you will be able to see during the visit show you the operation of the studios during the “Golden Age”, when production, distribution and exhibition were integrated in a single place. So, the facilities include; administrative offices, pre- and post-production studios, sets, outdoor settings, public services (firefighters and hospital), etc.
Paramount studios witnessed the work of great stars such as Mae West, Cecil B DeMille, WC Fields, Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, Alan Ladd, Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, the Marx Brothers, and Elvis Presley.
Adjacent to the north side of Paramount Studios is the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, where Rudolf Valentino lies. This myth of love hasn’t strayed far from the studios that made it a star.
To enter the Paramount studios, it can be done through the Bronson Gate, a historic portal located at the north end of Bronson Avenue or through the Melrose Gate, double arched doors located on Melrose Avenue. The Paramount campus is huge, occupying almost the same space as Disneyland.
How is the visit to the Paramount studios?
Famous movies such as Ben-Hur, Titanic, Transformers, Iron Man, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, The Godfather, Terminator, Mission Impossible, etc. have been filmed at Paramount studios. And series like NCIS: Los Angeles, Baywatch, Blacklist, etc.
However, in recent years, activity in the studios has declined. Now many productions are shot in the same locations and the stages and sets have lost activity, so you won’t see as much movement as in Warner. The stages and sets are rented for other producers such as Fox, HBO, Sony or Amazon.
There are 3 types of tours to visit the Paramount:
1. Paramount Picture Studios (64 USD$)
This option is done in a golf cart and lasts about 2 hours. During the itinerary, the guide will explain stories and anecdotes about the studios and with the help of an iPad you will be able to watch movie scenes and the transformation of settings such as the streets of New York, which simulate a Manhattan neighborhood and can be transformed into 10 different scenarios. The visit of this tour includes the props stores, sets and outdoor sets.
2. Paramount Pictures VIP Studios Tour (215 USD$)
This tour lasts about 4.5 hours and includes a guided tour by golf cart of the props warehouses, archives, production facilities, sets and exterior sets. They also include a gourmet lunch with champagne, parking, 15% discount in the Paramount store and a souvenir photo.
3. Sony Pictures Studio
It is a huge complex of television and film studios located at 10202 West Washington in Culver City, a city integrated into Los Angeles County. Currently this complex houses the studios of Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures and Screen Gems.
The company was founded in 1912, but over the years and multiple mergers, it changed its name. The most famous was the one in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, yes, the one with the head of the roaring lion.
During the golden age of Hollywood (between the 1930s and the 1960s), the MGM studios filmed up to 52 films a year, including several major productions such as Ben-Hur (it won 11 Oscars in 1959) or Mutiny. at the Bounty, but it was the Technicolor musicals like El Maho de Oz (he got 10 Oscars in 1939) or Singing in the Rain, which brought the studios the most fame. Other famous movies filmed in these studios are: Gone with the Wind (it won 10 Oscars in 1939), An American in Paris, West Side Story, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Broadway Melodies among many others.
During this time, it was said that there were more stars in MGM than in the firmament and they were right since the company controlled a huge number of movie stars, such as; Clark Gable, James Stewart, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Elisabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Esther Williams, Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Paul Newman, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn , among many others.
In the 70s the studies entered into crisis due to bad business decisions. Between 1986 and 1990 the studios were the headquarters of the Lorimar television production company until Sony Entertainment bought the property to convert it into its production headquarters. For more than twenty years, Sony has produced a significant number of films under the historic Columbia Pictures label, such as: The Spider-Man Trilogy, The Men in Black Saga, Black Hawk Down, Air Force One, My Best Friend’s Wedding , Starship Troopers, Sense and Sensibility, Jumanji, Philadelphia, Legends of Passion, Maximum Risk, Some Good Men, The Da Vinci Code, 2012, etc.
In these studios, very famous American television series and programs are also shot, such as: The Goldbergs, Braking Bad or The Wheel of Fortune.
How is the visit of the Sony Pictures Studios?
It is possible to visit the Sony Pictures studios through an organized tour that must be booked in advance.
During the basic tour, which lasts about 3 hours and is done on foot, you will have the opportunity to visit some of the 16 filming sets that are in the complex, as well as post-production rooms, where the final touches are assembled and the movies.
One of the reasons for visiting the Sony Pictures studios is that many of the buildings still preserve the art deco style of the golden age of Hollywood. Another interesting aspect is that these are one of the most active studios in Los Angeles, where film and television are always being shot and where there are more chances of seeing these shoots live and some famous people hanging around, like Will Smith or Adam Sandler.
The tours take place from Monday to Friday and have four different schedules (mornings at 9:30 and 10:30 / afternoons at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.). The price is USD$45 per person.
There is a VIP version that costs $175 USD
In the holiday season (summer, Easter, Christmas) it is advisable to book the tour as far in advance as possible since demand is high.