Universal Studios (www.filmmakersdestination.com) announces the opening of four acres of newly rebuilt New York Street backlot locations. A fixture in Hollywood for decades, New York Street (which consists of 13 city blocks of buildings) has been the setting of countless commercials, television shows and feature films such as The Sting, Blues Brothers, To Kill A Mockingbird, Back To The Future, Frost/Nixon and Bruce Almighty to name a few. The shooting location burned in an accidental fire on June 1, 2008 along with the King Kong theme park attraction and a video vault. The site offers a wealth of creative opportunities for film and television production and an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood moviemaking for Universal Studios Hollywood theme park guests.
“This is a proud day for Universal Studios. The opening of New York Street shows the company’s commitment to film and television production in Los Angeles and to supporting filmmakers worldwide,” said Ron Meyer, President & COO, Universal Studios.
To show the company’s on-going gratitude, Universal Studios is donating $100,000 over five years to local firefighting departments to buy additional equipment to ensure firefighter safety.
“I am so proud that the heart of the entertainment industry is right here in California, and I am committed to making sure it remains here,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“The film industry is a crucial economic driver for our state, because it creates jobs and draws tourism, and that’s exactly why I created an incentive program last year that is playing an important role in keeping television and film productions here in our state.”
Immediately following the fire, Jim Watters, President & General Manager of NBC Universal Operations Group, and Dave Beanes, Senior Vice-President of NBC Universal Production Services, began assembling a world renowned creative team to design the new street.
Steven Spielberg, who has had a long relationship with Universal, offered his support and creative vision as he has done in the past. Spielberg contacted one of his long time production designers, Rick Carter, Academy Award winner for Avatar, to be a part of the design process. Having designed Back to the Future, Carter had a very personal connection and passion for rebuilding. Headed by art director Beala Neel, this team of award-winning production designers and graphic artists would eventually expand to a staff of twenty-five. Carter and Neel collaborated on the initial design concepts and scope of the rebuild. The construction project became known as The Phoenix Project.
Based on his production experience and comments over the years from filmmakers, Beanes guided the core design team. He decided to keep the original east-west main street and added new locations: a modern New York block with a glass and steel look, Paris Square, London Square and Central Park. The modern New York block will be fully completed on June 30th. The King Kong theme park attraction was moved to expand the location and provide additional production parking. The new King Kong 360-3D attraction created by Peter Jackson will open this summer and will be the world’s largest and most intense 3D experience.
“With the completion of New York Street, we have secured Universal Studios backlot as the premier shooting location in the world,” said Jim Watters.
The overall design concept concentrated on detail work that would cater to modern filmmaking needs. The facade heights were increased 10 to 25 feet for an average total height of 40 to 50 ft. to give the big city downtown feel. The width of the main street was narrowed so the camera could capture both sides of the street in the same shot. The new facades have unobstructed interior shooting spaces that can be built out so productions can shoot interiors and exteriors without returning to a sound stage. Long vista shots through archways are now possible to give added depth to scenes.
For chase sequences, cameras can be positioned on the reinforced facade roofs or mounted on a crane to follow the action. The fire escapes are practical for use with actors and stunt people. The new Courthouse Square has a fire station large enough to hold a full sized fire truck. Next door to the fire station is a modular gas station that can be dismantled and stored according to the needs of production. As an added touch of realism, the manhole covers can emit special effects steam. London Square has chimneys rigged for special effect smoke.
A New Era for The Studio Tour
A signature attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, The Studio Tour has taken over 135 million visitors behind the scenes of the movie and television industry since the first distinctive trams rolled along the Universal backlot in 1964. Recently upgraded with hi-definition TV monitors in each tram car, new video content and high-grade digital audio systems, The Studio Tour’s behind-the-scenes experience of a working studio environment has evolved as Hollywood‘s longest-running hit production.
“This year marks the beginning of an exciting new era for our world-famous Studio Tour. With the arrival of the highly anticipated King Kong 360-3D, taking the 3D experience to a powerful new level, and the completion of the iconic New York Street locations, we’re offering a more compelling behind-the-scenes experience than at any time in our history,” said Larry Kurzweil, President & COO, Universal Studios Hollywood.
Universal Studios partnered with the LA County Fire and Building & Safety departments to create new guidelines for fire safety in the innovative facades. They have fully automatic sprinkler systems, central fire alarm system, built-in fire separation areas and a separate water supply infrastructure for the hydrants and the sprinkler systems.
Universal Studios is two years into a three year plan to recreate the majority of film and video elements lost in the video vault. The elements stored in this vault were used to service NBC Universal’s domestic and international distribution businesses. Due the company’s long standing policy of geographically separating duplicate sets of masters in vault facilities on the West Coast and East Coast, many elements are being systematically replaced.
Universal Studios is a unit of NBC Universal, one of the world’s leading media and entertainment companies in the development, production, and marketing of entertainment, news, and information to a global audience. Formed in May 2004 through the combining of NBC and Vivendi Universal Entertainment, NBC Universal owns and operates a valuable portfolio of news and entertainment networks, a premier motion picture company, significant television production operations, a leading television stations group, and world-renowned theme parks. NBC Universal is 80%-owned by General Electric (NYSE: GE) and 20%-owned by Vivendi.