Outside the theme park, a new, all-digital facility near the Universal Studios backlot was built in an effort to merge all of NBCUniversal's West Coast operations into one area. As a result, the current home for KNBC, KVEA and NBC News with Telemundo Los Angeles Bureaus with new digital facility is on the Universal lot formerly occupied by Technicolor SA. Universal City includes hotels Universal Hilton & Towers, the Sheraton Universal Hotel, the multi-screen Globe Theatre, often used for banquets and receptions and Universal CityWalk, which offers a collection of shops and restaurants. In 2013, the park hosted 6,148,000 guests, placing it 17th in the world and 9th among North American parks.
From the beginning, Universal had offered tours of its studio. After Carl Laemmle opened Universal City on March 14, 1915, he would later invite the general public to see all the action for an admission fee of just $0.05, which also included a lunch box containing chicken inside. There was also a chance to buy fresh produce, since then-rural Universal City was still in part a working farm. This original tour was discontinued in around 1930, due to the advent of sound films coming to Universal.
Universal Studios Hollywood's backlot has been damaged by fire nine times throughout its history. The first was in 1932 when embers from a nearby brush fire were blown towards the backlot causing four movie sets to be destroyed and over $100,000 damage. Seventeen years later in 1949 another brush fire caused the complete destruction of one building and damage to two others. In 1957, the New York street film studio set was destroyed by an arson fire causing half a million dollars in damage. Ten years later, in 1967, twice as much damage was done when the Little Europe area and part of Spartacus Square was destroyed. It also destroyed the European, Denver and Laramie street sets. In 1987, the remaining portion of Spartacus Square was destroyed along with street sets and other buildings. As with the 1957 fire, this was suspected to be the result of an arsonist. Just three years later another deliberate fire was started in the backlot. The New York Street set, the Ben Hur set and the majority of Courthouse Square was destroyed. In 1997, the seventh fire occurred at the backlot. A portion of the Courthouse Square was again destroyed, though most survived.
Smoke during the 2008 fire. The Courthouse facade is visible to the left of the smoke plume.
The most damage was done on June 1, 2008 when a three alarm fire broke out on the backlot of Universal Studios. The fire started when a worker using an acetylene torch for welding accidentally let it set fire to the surroundings. The Los Angeles County Fire Department had reported that Brownstone Street, New York Street, New England Street, the King Kong attraction, some structures that make up Courthouse Square, and the Video Vault had burned down (not to be confused with the actual Film Vault, The Video Vault contains the duplicates of the films). Aerial news footage captured the Courthouse building surviving fire for the third time in its history, with only the west side of it being slightly charred. Over 516 firefighters from various local fire departments, as well as two helicopters dropping water, had responded to the fire. Fourteen firefighters and three Los Angeles County sheriffs' deputies sustained minor injuries. The fire was put out after twelve hours, during which time firefighters encountered low water pressure.
Destroyed were 40,000 to 50,000 archived digital video and film copies chronicling Universal's movie and TV show history, dating back to the 1920s, including the films Knocked Up and Atonement, the NBC series Law & Order, The Office, and Miami Vice, and CBS's I Love Lucy. Many audio master tapes from Universal Music have been destroyed as well. Universal president Ron Meyer stated that nothing irreplaceable was lost, meaning everything could be rebuilt again at a price of at least $50 million. Days after the fire, it was reported that the King Kong attraction would not be rebuilt and would eventually be replaced by a new attraction that had yet to be announced. In August 2008, Universal changed its position and announced plans to rebuild the King Kong attraction, basing the new attraction on the 2005 film adaptation.
Shortly after Music Corporation of America took over Universal Pictures in 1962, accountants suggested a new tour in the studio commissary would increase profits. On July 15, 1964, the modern tour was established to include a series of dressing room walk-throughs, peeks at actual production, and later, staged events. This grew over the years into a full-blown theme park. The narrated tram tour (formerly "GlamorTrams") still runs through the studio's active backlot, but the staged events, stunt demonstrations and high-tech rides overshadow the motion-picture production that once lured fans to Universal Studios Hollywood.
In 1965, the War Lord Tower opened as one of the first attractions in the theme park. This was followed by the opening of the Animal Actors' School Stage in 1970. In 1974, the Rockslide staged event was added to the Studio Tour. The following year The Land of a Thousand Faces opened on the Upper Lot. In 1979, the Battle of Galactica replaced Rockslide as a staged event on the Studio Tour.
The Flintstones Show opened, replacing the Star Trek Adventure. In 1996, Jurassic Park: The Ride opened. In 1997, two shows were replaced: The Land Before Time show replaced Rocky and Bullwinkle Live; and Totally Nickelodeon replaced the Flintstones Show. Just one year after it opened, the Land Before Time show was replaced with Coke Soak. In 1999, T2 3-D: Battle Across Time and a Chicken Run Walkthrough opened on the upper lot. Additionally, Beetlejuice's Rock and Roll Graveyard Revue was closed.
In 2000, the Rugrats Magic Adventure replaced Totally Nickelodeon. In 2001, the Nickelodeon Blast Zone opened. Also in 2001, Animal Planet Live replaced the Animal Actors' School Stage. In 2002 replaced The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom. The following year, Fear Factor Live replaced Spider-Man Rocks. In 2007, Universal's House of Horrors opened, replacing Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula. Both Lucy: A Tribute and Back to the Future: The Ride were closed, prior to being replaced in 2008 by the Simpsons Ride and the Universal Story Museum respectively. Also in 2008, the Nickelodeon Blast Zone was rebranded to the Adventures of Curious George. In 2009, Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical replaced Fear Factor Live in the Upper Lot.
In 2010, the Special Effects Stages and Backdraft attractions were closed to make way for Transformers: The Ride which was announced in 2008 (Special Effects Stages was moved to the former Creature From The Black Lagoon building and reopened as Special Effects Stage). King Kong 360 3-D also opened. On May 24, 2012, Transformers: The Ride opened on the Lower Lot. On December 31, 2012, Universal Studios Hollywood closed T2 3-D: Battle Across Time for Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, the attraction at Universal Studios Florida, which opened on April 12, 2014.
In April 2014, the park announced Springfield: a new dining complex to be built around the existing Simpsons Ride. The new eating locations will feature "signature eateries from Krusty Burger to Luigi's Pizza and Phineas Q. Butterfat's 5,600 Flavors Ice Cream Parlor to iconic watering holes like Moe's Tavern and Duff's Brewery". It opened on 28 March 2015.
Also opening in 2015 is Fast and the Furious: Supercharged on the Studio Tour which will utilize some of the same technology used in King Kong: 360-3D and enhance it with multiple ride rooms and some physical effects to reflect a high-speed car chase through the streets of Los Angeles.
Universal Studios Hollywood is split into two areas on different levels, connected by a series of escalators called the Starway. These areas are known as the Upper lot and Lower lot. As of March 2015, Universal Studios Hollywood contains 7 rides, 4 shows, 2 play areas and a retrospective museum. Each lot features a collection of rides, shows and attractions as well as food, beverage and merchandise shops.
The Upper Lot is home to a variety of family based attractions. The theming of the Upper Lot includes a Mission Revival entrance pathway that ends at the new Universal Plaza opened in 2013. There are not as much fully themed lands as there are small environments linked together with a common Art Deco theme that reflects the glamor of Old Hollywood. The Upper Lot is home to all of the park's shows including the Universal's Animal Actors Show, the Special Effects Stage, Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular and Shrek 4-D, a 3-D film which features additional immerse features. There are 4 rides located on the upper lot which include: the Studio Tour, the The Simpsons Ride, 'Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem and the outdoor spinner "Silly Swirly". The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be located on the Upper Lot across from the Production Central gift shop, behind the AMC Universal CityWalk theaters.
The Studio Tour is a 45 minute ride which uses tram vehicles to take the visitors to the theme park's back-lot. The tour is the signature ride at the theme park and the wait time varies by day and seasons. The tour begins with an introduction by Jimmy Fallon and a trip down the hill into the Front Lot. After drifting through the soundstages of the Front Lot and transitioning into the Metropolitan Sets of the backlot, the tram then moves into the premier attraction: King Kong: 360 3-D, the world's largest 3-D experience. The tram then takes the guests to Courthouse Square section and then other buildings in the backlot. Afterwards, the tram enters a tunnel leading to the attraction: King Kong 360 3D. After King Kong 360 3D, the tram travels through sets from Jurassic Park and encounter Dilophosauruses. Following that, the tram travels to the Flash Flood attraction. The tram continues through Old Mexico, Six Points Texas, The Parting of the Red Sea, and Little Europe before experiencing Earthquake: The Big One attraction, and Bates motel from Psycho.
Experience Despicable Me Minion Mayhem and join Gru, his daughters and the mischievous Minions on a heartwarming and hilarious 3-D ride. Start your adventure in Gru’s home, where you’re recruited for his latest scheme – one where you’ll become an actual Minion. After making it through “Minion training” things don’t go as planned! Within moments, you’re launched into an unforgettable trip through his super-villain laboratory.
Guests must be 40″ (102 cm) tall to ride. Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
Family friendly carnival ride spins to give guests a 360-degree view of “Super Silly Fun Land”.
Children under 48” (122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
Experience a tidal wave of explosive action at WaterWorld – Universal Studios #1 rated show. Join an adventure that surges to life with jumping jet-skiers, perilous plunges, firefights, massive explosions, and an in-your-face plane crash you need to see to believe.
The Lower Lot is the smaller of the two lots. There are three thrill rides at this section of the park that each have height restrictions. It is home to Jurassic Park: The Ride, The NBC Universal Experience, Revenge of the Mummy (where E.T. Adventure once stood) and most recently the home to Transformers: The Ride. Jurassic Park: The Ride is a water adventure ride that takes visitors through the events of the first film. Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride is a high speed indoor roller coaster transporting guests through moments reminiscent of the 1999 Mummy franchise. The newest ride on the Lower Lot is Transformers: The Ride 3D. The ride uses high tech technology to simulate a battle between the Autobots and Decepticons with 4K-3D screens and flight simulator ride vehicles.
A 2 minute indoor steel roller coaster with speeds up to 45 miles per hour. Features forward motion and backwards motion. Most intense ride due to very aggressive drops, climbs, and turns. Guests of serious health conditions are not recommended to ride.
Transformers: The Ride-3D is an immersive, next generation thrill ride blurring the line between fiction and reality. Fusing HD 3D media and flight simulation technology, this epic ride creates an experience unlike anything this planet has ever seen.
Guests must be 40″ (102 cm) tall to ride. Children 40-48″ (102-122 cm) must be accompanied by a Supervising Companion (14 years or older).
The NBCUniversal Experience
Celebrate Universal Studio’s Centennial in this interactive, behind-the-scenes exhibit featuring authentic props, wardrobe and artifacts from over 100 years of Universal film history.
A costumed Despicable Me Minion is in Universal Studios Hollywood.
Costumed Despicable Me Three Girls are in Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios has a number of costumed characters roaming the park grounds, representing many different genres. Some are portrayals of Hollywood icons while others are based on Universal's vast media library. The following is a list of characters that are either currently seen in the park or have appeared in the past:
Universal Studios Hollywood is served by the Metro Red line at Universal City Station.
Universal Studios Hollywood can easily be accessed by public transportation. The Metro Red line subway train runs between Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, Westlake, Koreatown, Los Angeles, East Hollywood, and Hollywood. The subway line runs daily between the hours of 4:55 a.m. and 12:35 a.m. The last Metro Red Line train to Downtown Los Angeles departs the Universal City station at 12:58 a.m. on Mondays-Thursdays and Sunday/Holidays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the last Metro Red Line train to Downtown Los Angeles departs the station at 2:00 a.m. Passengers can also arrive at the entrance of the theme park entrance by several Metro bus routes. Metro Local lines: 150, 155, 224,240, and Metro Rapid line: 750 stop at Lankershim Blvd & Universal Center Drive (front entrance). Metro local line: 165 and Metro Shuttle Line: 656 Owl stop farther away from the entrance at Ventura Blvd. & Lankershim blvd. Passengers will need to walk north on Lankershim blvd and turn right on Universal Center drive. There is an additional stop further south at Cahuenga / Universal Studios Blvd served both by these lines. This stop is leads directly towards citywalk and the entrance to the theme park. At the front entrance (Universal Center Dr. & Lankershim Blvd), there is a free shuttle tram which directly takes the passengers directly towards the theme park entrance. The shuttle time varies between days but it typically runs between: 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. and later on Fridays and Saturdays.