Archive for the ‘Studios’ Category

Historic fires at Universal Studios

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

A fixture in Hollywood for decades, the backlot is primarily designed to let filmmakers shoot New York, London, Paris and other places without having to leave Los Angeles. At Universal Studios, visitors can catch a view of the four acres of backlot on Universal’s behind-the-scenes studio tours by tram. The New York Street, which consists of 13 city blocks of buildings, have been the setting of commercials, television shows and feature films.

All the major studios have had fires at one time or another, but Universal seems to have had more than their fair share. What follows is a brief history of fires at Universal Studios over the years.

March 25, 1913

Universal fire at Gower and Sunset location. (click on image to enlarge)

Before Universal moved to their present location, they were at Gower Street and Sunset Boulevard. Early in the morning, the studio was destroyed by a fire that began in the film storehouse and was believed to have been caused by spontaneous combustion.

Several outdoor stages, dressing rooms, outbuildings, offices, the scenery storeroom and other buildings, all made of wood, were burned to the ground. For a time, the Hollywood branch office of the Sunset Telephone Company, and near-by residences were threatened.

September 29, 1917

A fire started from an unknown origin in the dry grass and spread to a two-story building on a western street just a short distance from the wardrobe building. Members of the Universal fire department and every able-bodied man fought to extinguish the flames. Sparks from the burning buildings were carried to one of the stages and set fire to many overhead diffusers. Actors helped to put them out.

Sparks also fell on the roof of the new electric light studio, which was constructed only a few weeks earlier, but a group of men quickly put it out. For a while, it was feared that the $4,000,000 studio would be seriously damaged, however, the loss was estimated at $10,000.

Not to waste the opportunity, cameramen trained their cameras upon the fire scenes which was placed in stock for use in future films.

June 3, 1919

A stubborn fire aided by a strong wind blowing into the San Fernando Valley was intent on destroying the Universal back lot. Unfortunately, being in an unincorporated district, the nearby Hollywood fire station declared Universal City to be beyond its jurisdiction. Actor Harry Carey, who was filming scenes for Rider of the Law (1919), gathered several cowboy actors to help fight the fire. They hauled a hose from the studio to the crest of one of the hills where there was a huge water tank and sprayed the hillsides from there. The blaze destroyed sets and equipment on three of the hills; damage was set at $5,000 and might have been more had not Carey and the other men acted so quickly.

May 25, 1922

A short-circuited electric wire, which whipped through an open doorway of a cutting room, ignited more than 100,000 feet of film. The huge coils of film flared instantly with flames sweeping through the room endangering near-by buildings. Padlocked metal boxes of film exploded with the heat, showering the vicinity with steel splinters that were embedded in the walls.

The explosion, smoke and fire caused a near-panic among the hundreds of studio employees. Actress Priscilla Dean rushed up a flight of stairs to the burning room, intent on saving the film of her picture, Under Two Flags (1922), which was being completed. She tripped on a flowing oriental robe (part of her costume) she was wearing and sprained her ankle.

At a loss of four cents a foot, more than 185,000 feet of film was destroyed including Under Two Flags and the footage for five other productions.

Tod Browning, who directed Under Two Flags, was about to leave for his home when the fire started. Irving Thalberg, director-general of the studio; Julius Bernhein, Leo McCarey and Arthur Ripley (film editor), all tried to reach the cutting room but were forced back by the flames.

Thalberg estimated that the property damage from the fire and the loss of film would amount to more than a half-million dollars.

December 23, 1922

Seven months later, another fire ravaged the studio under similar circumstances when an electric lamp short circuited and ignited more than a million feet of film. An explosion shook the building, knocking down a woman standing fifty feet from the source. Fortunately, the fire was prevented from spreading to the adjoining scenic shop where copious amounts of paint, chemicals and inflammable materials were stored.

The fire broke out at 3:50 pm and was battled by fire-fighting apparatus on the premises. Special effects man, Edward Bush and actor Norman Kerry, who was still dressed in his Austrian costume from Merry-Go-Round (1923), rushed into the building ahead of the fireman. However, both were overcome by fumes from the burning film and were carried out unconscious. They were attended to at the Universal City Emergency Hospital. Actors Herbert Rawlinson and Art Acord were among those who also aided in fighting the flames.

The studio was not seriously damaged, but a total of 1,100,000 feet of film was destroyed. This was footage for between thirty-five and forty films which was being edited, including One of Three (1923) from the Yorke Norroy film series starring Roy Stewart. It was estimated to cost approximately $250,000 to reshoot the pictures. The destroyed film was valued at about $100,000.

February 26, 1923

A “prop” fire became a genuine blaze and damaged a cabin set, singeing every actor in an episode of The Phantom Fortune (1923) serial. William Desmond suffered slight burns and minor lacerations when he dragged Cathleen Calhoun from the burning cabin with her costume ablaze. Esther Ralston suffered scorched hands, arms, and back. Robert F. Hill, the director, was burned about the neck and ears. Cameraman, “Buddy” Harris had his right hand severely burned. Three electricians and a property man also sustained minor injuries.

The fire was caused by flares used to simulate flames that ignited the woodwork of the set. All the injured were given emergency treatment at the studio hospital and sent home.

August 27, 1925

A fire broke out on the set of The Midnight Sun (1926) starring Laura La Plante and Pat O’Malley. Five hundred extras went into a panic, many of them trampled underfoot and two were slightly injured when a gigantic set of the interior of the Petrograd Imperial Ballet was swept by fire. Director Dimitri Buchowetski immediately jumped on the burning stage and shouted directions to the frightened extras.

The cause of the blaze was a sputtering, overhead-arc light, which came in contact with a huge drapery, part of the decorations imported from Paris for the production. Three days of shooting had to be reshot because of the destruction of the draperies which could not be duplicated. The estimated damage to the set was $15,000.

April 8, 1927

A fire started in an editing room when a lamp burned out and a spark flew into a stack of film. The fire, which threatened to spread, was confined to the single building, but the building was destroyed.

Many thousands of feet of film had to be reshot. Among the films destroyed was Reginald Denney’s Fast and Furious (1927). The loss due to the fire was estimated at $10,000.

January 7, 1931

A blaze started in a frame structure used for cutting short-length films. The cutters narrowly escaped when the room burst into flames. They were slightly overcome by fumes generated by the burning film but were revived in the studio infirmary. The studio fire department confined the fire to the one building. Damage was placed at $10,000 to the film and $5,000 to the building.

October 25, 1932

A brush fire broke out in the woodlands behind Universal and swept through fifteen acres of land destroying two film sets valued at $10,000. While the main stages and sets were not in danger, the sets destroyed were used in Frankenstein (1931) and the William Wyler film, A House Divided (1931).

Two uniformed men up front spray water on the Universal backlot fire while a line of men continue to pull a hose up the hillside toward the fire raging behind a veil of smoke. (September 1937)

September 8, 1937

A brush fire fanned by a stiff breeze burned over twenty-two acres on Universal’s back lot, destroying three houses used as a motion-picture set. A score of wild animals caged near a jungle set and several hillside residences were also in danger of the blaze.

One of the destroyed houses was an old type Spanish ranch that had been used in hundreds of western films. The other two were a part of what was known as the “Swiss Village” and were originally built in 1922 for a John Barrymore picture.

The wild animals included Universal’s famous black panther, the trained chimpanzee “Skippy,” and numerous lions, leopards and other animals. The collection was valued at $50,000.

The estimated damage to the back lot was $10,000.

December 23, 1954

A fire broke out on the set of One Desire (1955) starring Anne Baxter and Rock Hudson. The script called for Baxter to throw a book at Hudson and knock over a kerosene lamp. She did, and the flames swept up the drapes, however members of the crew were unable to contain the blaze as it whipped to the ceiling of the sound stage. The heat opened sprinklers over an adjacent stage and caused damage to other sets prepared for the same film.

September 25, 1957

An acre of permanent street-scene sets was destroyed by a fire that broke out on Universal’s back lot shortly before 5 pm. None of the street scenes involved in the fire was in use. A complete theater set on “New York Street,” a landmark for twenty years, was consumed in the fire. The heat melted and twisted the steel girder frame of the building that had been used in numerous films. The last film to use the set was the remake of My Man Godfrey (1957) starring David Niven. The damage was estimated at $500,000.

May 15, 1967

A fire started in a barn on the “Laramie Street” set and spread north and east over twelve acres of movie and television sets. At times, flames leaped more than 100-feet into the air. The “European,” “Denver” and “Laramie” streets were burned to the ground by the fire which roared out of control for more than an hour.

Wind-blown sparks showered upon the nearby Warner Bros. Studios causing at least one minor fire on the roof of the old casting building. Embers were carried as far as NBC Studios, two miles away and across the river to the Lakeside golf course.

Movie sets burn in a $1 million fire on Universal Studios’ backlot on May 15, 1967. Firemen battle roaring flames that raged out of control in studio structures. (LAPL)

The “European” set was originally built in 1930 for filming of All Quiet on the Western Front and had been used for countless films since. The destroyed “Laramie” set was used for the television show Laredo and the “Denver” street for The Virginian series.

The damage was set at $1 million.

 

November 6, 1990

A spectacular fire ravaged four acres of the Universal back lot and destroyed the New York Street; an adjacent alley set; Brownstone Street; a portion of the Courthouse Square where Back to the Future was filmed, and the Dick Tracy Building. Also, heavily damaged was the “King Kong” and “Earthquake” exhibits on the studio tour.

The New York Street set was used in the films The Sting (1973), and Dick Tracy (1990), among others. Beside the Back to the Future films, the Courthouse Square set was used in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The fire was set by a studio guard who was later sentenced to four years in prison. Damage was estimated at $25 million.

September 6, 1997

Improperly stored chemicals were blamed for a fire that destroyed the northern side of Courthouse Square. Once again, this building was spared.

June 1, 2008

A studio set is engulfed in fire at Universal Studios, June 2008.

A fire erupted at 4:45 a.m. on New York Street — a location that played host to scenes for such films as Batman and Robin and Austin Powers. Fueled by highly combustible facades and lumber, the fire rendered a sprinkler system on outdoor sets nearly useless.

The flames churned through the open-air wood and plastic construction and to the adjacent sets, incinerating the 30-foot animatronic “King Kong” tour exhibit, and damaging Courthouse Square, which played a prominent role in Back to the Future, To Kill a Mockingbird and Inherit the Wind. The blaze also engulfed the videotape warehouse, containing archives of television shows and movies dating to the 1920s.

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A visit to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in 1930

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

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A short sixteen years earlier, in 1914, the land was a bare, sandy waste of land. In 1930, the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer studios were valued at $25,000,000.

In 1914 a real estate man sat in his office. He owned hundreds of acres of land on the outskirts of Los Angeles and was confronted with the problem of selling them. As it lay, that tract of land was far from pleasing to the eye which increased the problem of selling it.

Something had to be done to draw attention to the locations, to give it a glamour which would entice home-seekers. The real estate man decided to forget those acres for the afternoon and go to a movie. But as he was leaving he stopped—Movies! Motion pictures. A studio. Workmen would need land for homes.

Thomas Ince, then a big mogul in motion pictures, was called and offered the land to build a studio. Where?” Ince asked.

Culver City,” replied the real estate man.

So out to the sanded wastes went Thomas Ince. He built one rickety stage which passed for a studio and began making Western pictures. Ince’s once rickety stage had grown to be three large glassed-in studios. A few years later, Samuel Goldwyn, coming west, bought the works; stages, land and all that went with them. The romance of motion pictures and the studio which eventually became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer were under way.

Under the Goldwyn regime at that studio Will Rogers first came to pictures. Also there was Pauline Frederick, who was one of the most beautiful actresses of her day. Helen Chadwick, Naomi Childers, Sydney Ainsworth, Madge Kennedy, Mabel Normand, Jack Pickford, Tom Moore and Geraldine Farrar, at that time the “Carmen” of them all. These and many more laughed and cried their way in and out of that old studio. Most are but faint memories today.

Rupert Hughes, Rex Beach, Gouverneur Morris, Gertrude Atherton—writers which in their day were as big as any in their game—all saw service at that old Goldwyn studio. It was a training ground for the best.

In 1924, Metro Studios and Louis B. Mayer joined hands with Goldwyn and the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer organization and studio was born. It grew into a fairy city. .

There were twenty-two complete sound stages. Two of these were monstrous things of steel and concrete. One contained a complete theater, the largest hippodrome stage west of New York City, for theatrical spectacles in films. The stage in the theater was eighty feet long, eighty feet wide and eighty feet high. It had every modern device invented. This is what you see in MGM pictures whenever theatrical sequences are shown.

Another stage, the largest in existence, one hundred feet wide and two hundred and fifty feet long, was a steel and glass semi-enclosed building for extra large exterior scenes, such as those shown in The Trail of ’98. The rest were ordinary, huge steel and wood stages made soundproof by being lined with a composition. .

In these studios daily could be seen John Gilbert, Norma Shearer, William Haines, Marion Davies, Ramon Novarro, Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford and a host of less famous players who were battling their way to stardom.

A group of concrete buildings were to the left as you entered the main gate. The first three-story building was the one housing the executives. Irving Thalberg was one of them. Louis B. Mayer was another.

Next there was a three-story concrete wardrobe building. In it were tailor and dressmaking shops, designers’ offices and storage space for the more and 10,000 dresses and costumes MGM kept on hand ready for a moment’s call. With Adrian and David Cox designing them, and “Mother” Coulter supervising the making of them, some famous costumes and styles went out to the world from this building.

Just past the wardrobe was the publicity building and casting office. That small office was where so many came daily only to be told, “Sorry, nothing for you today.” Directly across from the publicity building was the commissary; a complete restaurant with dining room, lunch counters and soda fountain. It was run on a non-profit basis, being strictly for the convenience of the studio employees, the stars, extras, cameramen and directors. For years the minimum number of meals which were served there in any one day—except Sundays—was one thousand. And as many as seven thousand were fed in one day during heavy production. It was here that Louis B. Mayer entertained the entire studio at a turkey dinner each year during the Christmas holidays. Never had he had less than 2,500 guests. In addition, the commissary had its own ice and carbonating plant. .

Karl Dane and Gwen Lee point out the studios schedule.

Director’s Row was two stories and ran from one side of the commissary. Here sat Robert Leonard, Sam Wood, Jack Conway, Harry Beaumont and other directors. Around the corner was the fan-mail department. Seven clerks handled an average of 38,000 letters a month addressed to the stars. They were in reality a miniature post office staff, sorting the letters and seeing that each star gets his sack-full every day. It was these men who addressed and sent pictures of the players to those who requested them.

Strolling further about the fifty-three acre lot were stages back-to-back, stages stuck off in corners, and sets all over the place. There was a building for music and dance rehearsals; a recording building where the voices were recorded. Next a camera building and near it the projection rooms, where daily the “rushes” were viewed.

Nearby was the big electrical building. The MGM studio used 2,500,000 kilowatts of juice a year. It had a “connected load” of 35,000 horsepower—more than enough to light a city the size of Reno, Nevada. .

Bungalow of the Stars

Around the corner of a stage were bungalows which nestled into the ground and looked like dream houses. They belonged to the stars. Then the make-up department, a little schoolhouse for child actors and more sets.

More than 3,000,000 feet of lumber a year was used in building sets; 15,000 gallons of paint; 250 tons of plaster; 4,000 sacks of cement; 15,000 tons of rock; 600 bales of plaster fiber, and 300,000 feet of wallboard. These were for the building of sets only and did not include the materials used to build stages and buildings.

The telephone system at MGM was a 1200-unit central switchboard. It was more than enough to adequately serve a city of 3,000 people. .

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In 1930, out of the 120 buildings and its 2,500 employees, 50,000,000 feet of film was used for the output of motion pictures that was sent to theaters. In any event, it was a far cry from the dinky, rickety one stage that Thomas Ince first erected, to the ten thousand people who were on the lot at one time during the shooting of Ben-Hur (1926). In 1930, Culver City boasted 13,000 as her population. That real estate agent—Harry Culver—was now a multimillionaire.

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Universal Studios, the Laemmle years, 1912-1936…

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

FILM HISTORY

Universal Studios, the Laemmle years, 1912—1936…      

 

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

The 100th anniversary of Universal Studios was celebrated this year (April 30) thus making it the first of the major Hollywood studios to achieve that impressive longevity. The story of Universal, especially the years of Carl Laemmle’s control, is typical of the industry and carries a recognizable theme that reverberates through all American business successes.

 

 

 

 

When Carl Laemmle arrived in New York at 17 years-old, he had $50 and a telescope valise packed with only a few personal items from his home in Laupheim, Germany. From there he headed west like many other immigrants and found odd jobs in stores, factories, working as a farm hand in South Dakota, as a bookkeeper in Chicago and as the general manager of a department store in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Twenty-two years later, Laemmle had saved a capital of $2,500 and started on his next venture.

 

Laemmle had returned to Chicago where he waited in line for the new sensation, the motion picture shows, which was shown in a store converted to resemble the interior of a railroad coach; the motion picture representing scenery was viewed from the rear of a train. Laemmle was astonished at the long line of people willing to pay a dime for this privilege and envisioned the possibility for a new money-making opportunity.

 

With the assistance of R. H. Cochrane, a young Chicago advertising man, they acquired a store on Milwaukee Avenue where he opened the White Front Theater on February 24, 1906 (it had been the White Front store and the sign served as a name for the theater). It was on a Saturday night and he gave patrons fifteen minutes of movies and a song with beautifully colored slides. On Sunday he ran twenty shows. At five cents a head his gross for the two days was $192.05. That was the beginning of a long association with Cochrane who later became a vice-president of Universal.

 

A second theater was soon opened and from that point Laemmle entered all branches of the rapidly expanding motion picture industry. This new success brought him into conflict with the larger interests in the industry. After breaking with the Patents Company, which owned most of the patents on cameras, projectors, etc. he announced he would produce his own films. The Independent Moving Picture (IMP) Company was formed. Its first film, Hiawatha, was released in October 1909. IMP has been given the credit for introducing the star system to Hollywood, when it signed the Biograph Girl, Florence Lawrence, and billed her name above the title of her pictures in 1910. Over the next three years Laemmle battled Edison’s motion picture trust which was followed by a federal investigation, leading to the termination of the General Film Company.

 

The Universal Film Manufacturing Company was founded on April 30, 1912, and was composed of six of the leading independent producers. The name Universal was given, according to Hollywood legend, when Laemmle was presiding over a pretentious gathering of independent film producers in his office overlooking Union Square to decide upon a name. After glancing out the window at the Broadway traffic, with the usual flourishes, gave the designation—Universal. He had seen the name, it is said, on a delivery wagon marked “Universal Pipe Fittings.”

 

Following other film producers, by the end of 1912, Universal was making most of its films in Hollywood on the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower. During the first year of the studio’s operation, 250 films were produced, mostly two-reelers.

 

As Laemmle and Universal prospered, he purchased a former chicken farm, the 230-acre Taylor ranch on the banks of the Los Angeles River five miles north of Hollywood. The land was part of the ancient Rancho Cahuenga de Ramirez and on the property where General John C. Fremont and Pio Pico signed the Treaty of Cahuenga.  

 

 

 

 

Formal dedication of the studio on March 14, 1915, was an affair heralded by posters in railway stations throughout the country. Exhibitors were brought here by special trains to witness the ceremony. Laura Oakley, Universal City’s female police chief, presented Laemmle with a golden key and he officially unlocked the huge front gate of the studio as bands played. Flags were unfurled and a cheering crowd of 20,000 jammed Lankershim Blvd.  

 

 

 

Carl Laemmle and friends at the opening of Universal City in March 1915

 

Universal City came into existence and the studio was created as a small city with a population of nearly 300, with its own post office, fire department and police department. Children have been born on the lot and men and women have died there. Virginia Richdale Kerrigan, the daughter of William W. Kerrigan, one-time manager of Universal and the twin brother of actor J. Warren Kerrigan, had the distinction of being the first baby born on the Universal lot in 1915. Tragically only nine years later, Virginia’s dress caught fire at a Christmas gathering and she died from her burns.

 

Many of the 300 Universal employees lived in houses on the lot when the studio was opened in 1915. Some merely converted sets into practical living quarters and others just camped. Most of the actors had horses, for Universal was the home of the Western, which provided the studios bread-and-butter in the first two decades. The players with horses carried saddle bags in which were stuffed two uniforms. Sometimes they would appear in the mornings as Indians and after lunch, once the Indians were defeated by the cowboys, they would switch costumes and chase the images of themselves.

 

 

 

The above and following two photos were taken on a visit to Universal Studios in 1916 (Courtesy of Allan Landman / © Hollywoodland 2012)

 

 (Courtesy of Allan Landman / © Hollywoodland 2012)

 

 (Courtesy of Allan Landman / © Hollywoodland 2012)

 

One day in 1916, Harry Carey, one of Universal’s early western star attractions, was leading a bunch of cowhands down Broadway when the whole group tired of the script. Just for fun, and the undying mortification of the city’s budding social set, Carey and his dusty mounted troupe, rode up the steps and into the lobby of the stylish Alexandria Hotel.

 

Many stories of early Universal were based on nepotism, for there it thrived. Several Laemmles changed their names so that strangers wouldn’t get the impression they were there only because they were related. Some made good, others did not. But Uncle Carl, as he was known in the industry, never fired one of them. Ogden Nash, the poet, said the following about Laemmle’s habit of giving top executive jobs to family members: “Uncle Carl Laemmle has a very large faemmle.”

 

Laemmle’s greatest pride was for his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., who was originally named Julius after his grandfather in Germany. But when the senior Laemmle made him general manager of Universal on his twenty-first birthday, Julius became Junior.

 

Something else that Laemmle loved was gambling. High-stakes poker games with such cronies as Joseph Schenck and Sid Grauman would last all night and when the local action slowed a bit, Laemmle thought nothing of taking quick trips to Agua Caliente, the Mexican forerunner of Las Vegas. One night he lost $10,000 there. In one weekend, he lost three times that.

 

Universal Studios was the site of a number of industry firsts—Laemmle established the first European exchange for independent American films; he built the first electrically lighted stages so he would not have to depend on sunlight, and produced the first $1,000,000 feature, Foolish Wives (1922), directed by Erich von Stroheim, who the studio billed as “the man you love to hate.”

 

Many famous names in Hollywood history served at one time or another on the Universal lot. On it Charlie Chaplin courted Mildred Harris and Wallace Reid won Dorothy Davenport. John Ford and William Wyler (a Laemmle family member) received their early training at the studio—on Harry Carey westerns and farces with Laura La Plante. Such films as Phantom of the Opera (1925) and Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), both with Lon Chaney; Showboat (1929 and 1936) and the Academy Award winner, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) were made there. The studio launched the comedies of the 1930s with My Man Godfrey (1936) and introduced Deanna Durbin as a 14-year-old singer in her first great success, Three Smart Girls (1936). The studio also produced such classic soap operas as Magnificent Obsession (1936), Back Street (1932) and Imitation of Life (1934), the same titles that turned out to be box-office hits in the 1950s in remakes refurbished with color. And of course, there are the famed monster films which include Frankenstein (1931), Dracula (1931), The Mummy (1932) and The Invisible Man (1933).

 

 

 

 

All studios were famous for their publicity stunts, but one at Universal had repercussions for many years to come. For the film, The Black Cat (1934), an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, the studio advertised a county-wide contest for a cat to play the title role. Every child in town showed up. By the time the pre-selected winner was announced, cats were loose everywhere. Few chose to return home, and for decades (and possibly to this day) the studio lot teemed with their descendants.

 

 

 

Cast of Show Boat–Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Charles Winninger and Helen Westley

 

The Laemmle era came to an end in 1936 when the studio produced a lavish remake of Show Boat, featuring several stars from the Broadway stage version. Carl Jr.’s disturbing spending habits, the studios attempts at high-quality productions and the costs of modernizing and upgrading during the depression brought about their decline and being placed into receivership. Stockholders demanded that the Laemmle’s take out a loan from Standard Capital Corporation to make Show Boat, using the family’s controlling interest as collateral. When production problems created a huge overrun, the loan was called in and Universal could not pay. Standard foreclosed and seized control of Universal. Ironically when Show Boat was released it was a financial success but it was not enough to save the Laemmles who were forced to leave the studio on April 2, 1936. Carl Laemmle died three years later at the age of 72.

 

Despite low periods in its history, Universal Studios has survived. Over the past seventy-plus years Universal has had several owners and name variations. It is the debris from the Laemmle years, 1912 to 1936, that saw hundreds of films made on the 230 (and eventually 410) acres and that form most of Universal today. It doesn’t look much like a chicken farm any more.

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Universal Reopens Courthouse Square

Friday, June 19th, 2009

STUDIOS

Universal Studios backlot reopens

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Universal back lot

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The University of Southern California marching band, left, announces the rebuilt Courthouse Square film location at Universal Studios reopening for tours in Los Angeles on Thursday, June 18, 2009. The Courthouse Square, now fully restored, after the four-acre June 2008 fire in the historic backlot. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

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