Universal Studios Reopens New York Backlot

Universal Studios Hollywood

Visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood can now see the new New York Street backlot, which replaces the famous location ruined in a fire two years ago.

A fixture in Hollywood for decades, the backlot is primarily designed to let filmmakers shoot New York, London, Paris and other places without actually having to leave Los Angeles. Visitors can catch a view of the newly rebuilt four acres on Universal's behind-the-scenes studio tours by tram.

Films shot at the location include "The Blues Brothers," "Back to the Future," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Sting." Countless commercials and televisions shows including "Desperate Housewives," "Ghost Whisperer" and "Parenthood" are shot at New York Street too.

The accidental fire on June 2008 also destroyed the "King Kong" theme park attraction and a video vault. Universal says rebuilding everything cost $200 million. A new "King Kong 3-D" attraction created by Peter Jackson is expected to open before July 4 weekend, according to a spokeswoman.

New York Street consists of 13 city blocks and includes Wall Street, Central Park and Broadway theater district sections.

Repeat visitors will notice when rebuilding the backlot, heights of the buildings were increased 10 to 25 feet, for an average of 40 to 50 feet, to give more of a big city, downtown feel. The width of the main street was also narrowed so both sides can be captured in the same shot, Universal said.

Other updates include reinforced facade roofs so cameras can be mounted for chase scenes. The new Courthouse Square has a fire station large enough to hold a full-sized fire truck.

The first people to tour the rebuilt back lot, which reopened last week, included Steven Spielberg, who has a long relationship with Universal and helped creatively with the reconstruction, and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shot five movies on the backlot.

Many visitors are expected to follow – Universal says more than 135 million people have taken The Studio Tour since it was first offered in 1964.
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