by Louis Bignami

Four studios to tour, a fleet of bus or van rides past star’s homes, flyers that tell you which movie and TV show shoots where in and around LA, and other oddments like star’s hand and foot prints, names and stars in the street testify to the LA Basin’s importance in the movie business. You’d have to push hard to enjoy everything. Universal Studios Hollywood, in particular, can take a whole day and is the choice if you can only visit one studio. Add a visit to what’s now called Mann’s Chinese Theater, check out the dubious architectural delights of the Capitol Records Building and try a visit to the Hollywood Bowl.

To see more you need start early and recreate late to cover everything. Visit Warner Brothers and NBC one day; check out Paramont and Universal Studios another, and you’re a manageable schedule. Write for free studio audience tickets to TV shows too. Mention the dates you’d like to visit and include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.


As I write this NBC’s Burbank Studios host Jay Leno’s Tonight Show. That seems fair, as his predecessor Johnny Carson never let up on "scenic downtown Burbank." Maybe that’s the price you pay in a city named after a botanist. In any case there’s usually a line of locals and visitors waiting to get into the Tonight Show audience. However, you get a closer look at the set, other shows filming on the lot that day and a quick tour of wardrobe, production areas.

Paramont Pictures

Paramont Studios double arched gates with the fancy grills look like the old Bronson Street Gate Gloria Swanson drive through in Sunset Boulevard. The original gates saw most old-time Hollywood star back in the days when Cecil B. DeMille directed here. Classics like the Godfather I & II, and today’s Forrest Gump filmed here. So do TV shows like Frasier, Wings and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. So you’ve rather a good chance to see a star on a break on your tour of the 63 acres of backlot that, like Warner Brothers, seems to concentrate the celebrities better than Universal Studios vast operation.

Universal Studios Hollywood

No question but that this is the flossiest, as well as the world’s largest at 420 acres, film complex anywhere. Given the time, plan to spend an entire day here with the rides -- the average visit is 8 hours --, studio attractions and shows and simply exploring. If you’re rushed try the 45-minute train ride through the back lot. There’s far too much to cover but, when your feet die, you can sample one of 18! Different movies in the Odeon Theatres.

If you only have time for a single studio tour, this is the one!

Warner Brothers

Jack Warner built a wonder set of streets for the backlot of his studio. The "New York Street" set sited 48 films from Bogart to Batman. Midwest Street and the Western backlot --Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie and Maverick --should look familiar to any film buff.

If you can, opt for the VIP Tour and reserve a spot in the studio dining room for lunch. It’s rated the best studio restaurant in the Southland and a great spot to see how little actors eat.


Television Tickets:
NBC-TV: Call 818-840-3537 or try the window at 3000 West Alameda Ave. Burbank, CA 91523 from 8 to 5 weekdays

Paramont: Information at 213-956-5575 or try the window at 860 Gower St. Hollywood, CA 90038 from 8 to 4 weekdays.

Warner Brothers: Audiences Unlimited 818 506-0043 or 5726 Sunset Blvd. Hollywood, CA 90025 8:30 to 6 p.m.

Universal Studios Hollywood: 818-508-9600 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal