. L.A. Feature_Studios


Behind the Scenes: See How Movies, TV Shows Are Made

LOS ANGELES a Big Hollywood studios have been making

movies for more than 70 years, and the folks in the back shop realize that not only will people pay to see the final product, but they'll also shell out quite a bit to see how movies are made. Voila! The latest must-see on a vacation itinerary: a studio tour.

A behind-the-scenes tour of a movie or TV studio can

mean a stroll onto the set of a sitcom or talk show, or rubbernecking to see every detail of the set where the latest Bruce Willis movie was shot. L.A. visitors who paid $29 for the Warner Bros. Studios VIP Tour this spring will have a decided advantage over the folks back home when "Eraser," Arnold Schwarzenegger's latest action film, opens this summer. They can muse out loud that they saw the set where some scenes were filmed.

"Going on a behind-the-scenes tour of a movie studio is what everyone wants to do these days when they come to Hollywood," said Dick Mason, tour manager at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. "We've been expanding every year and most of it's word-of-mouth business. We can't promise anything, but recent visitors have seen the sets for `Eraser' and `Glimmerman,'" a Steven Seagal action film scheduled for fall release.

Those who take the two-hour Warner Bros. golf-cart tour will find it among the most expensive but also the most detailed of the Hollywood studio tours. Guides deliver a fascinating rap on the history of movies and TV, show visitors where scenery is built and allow a peek into the costume department, where more than a million ensembles are stored. In the sound department, rapt visitors love it when technicians reveal tricks-of-the-trade. Then it's on to the tallest sound stage in the world, where the new "Batman" movie is in production this summer.

Many top TV shows are produced on the Warner lot, including "Murphy Brown," "Friends" and "Family Matters." The luck of the draw: seeing celebrities. The 10 a.m. golf carters may see a dozen celebs while a later tourazilch.

"Nothing is set up just for the tour groups," Mason

added. "What they see is people going about their work." Tours are limited to 12 people and reservations (a week in advance during the busy summer months) are highly recommended. Call 818/954-1744.

Over at Paramount Studios, in the heart of Hollywood,

recent visitors got bragging rights to being on the set of Richard Gere's box-office hit "Primal Fear." During the twohour walking tours, guides weave Paramount's 80-year-history into their spiel as they take groups onto movie and TV show sets. The itinerary varies from day to day. "Hard Copy," "Entertainment Tonight" and "Leeza," taped year-round, are the best bets. The cost is $15, despite the cozy 15-person limit on each tour. Reservations are not necessary. Visitors can just show up 10 minutes before the tours, which begin on the hour from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, at the Paramount Visitors Center, 860 N. Gower St.

Many top TV shows are filmed at Paramount, including

"Ellen," "Frasier" and "Wings." Getting into a taping is more complicated than taking a tour: call 213/956-1777 to get a schedule and instructions. For shows at other studios, contact Audiences Unlimited for information about getting tickets. You can call 818/506-0067 or write to them at 100 Universal City Plaza, Bldg. 153, Universal City, CA 91608.

The highlight for many visitors on NBC's Burbank

Studios' two-hour tour is strolling out onto "The Tonight Show" set. It's very familiar, even if some things do seem much smaller in person. Unfortunately, Jay Leno will probably be back in his office working on his monologue during your tourabut later you can hear it live as a member of the studio audience.

If you pick up your $6 tickets for the tour at NBC's

ticket booth early in the day, you should also be able to snag free tickets to that afternoon's Tonight Show taping. Unless Magic Johnson or Madonna is expected, you have a good shot at two seats. The show tapes at 5 p.m.; you must be back in line by 4 p.m. Call the show's 24-hour hotline, 818/840-3537, for information on Leno's scheduled guests. You can also write for tickets before you leave home (3000 W. Alameda, Burbank, CA 91523). Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Requests are processed 2-3 weeks in advance.

For those who can't decide between visiting a movie

studio and hanging out at an amusement park, there's Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal, which has been hosting studio tours for more than 30 years, takes visitors around the lot on hour-long tram ridesapast real sets (even oldies like the "Psycho" house and Amity Island from "Jaws") and stars' dressing rooms. And there's always a chance a celebrity will happen byaArnold (he sure gets around) Schwarzenegger is filming "Jingle All the Way" at Universal this summer.

But a big reason visitors spend the day here is the

theme park thrillsarides and adventures based on the studio's most action-packed movies.

Jurassic Park_The Ride has just joined Waterworld and E.T. as movies-turned-adventure-rides. In jungly Jurassic Park, visitors on a runaway raft manage to escape a thundering T-Rex and his prehistoric cronies.

The studio doesn't neglect moviegoers with less actionoriented tastes. At the CineMagic show, audience members can create their own sound effects for "Harry and the Hendersons." There's a Flintstones musical show as well as a Beetlejuice graveyard revue. And for those with a strong nostalgia streak: Lucy: A Tribute. Admission to Universal is $34 for adults, $26 for children 3-11. For information, call 818/622-3801.

L.A.'s Film and Video Permit Office, at 6922 Hollywood Blvd. across from Mann's Chinese Theatre, is a bustling place. Everyone from Steven Spielberg to budding artistes at UCLA's film school must get a permit to shoot on location. Every morning, the office prints up a schedule that details every production that day. Serious film buffs and autograph seekers pick one up after 8 a.m. and set out on the trail. And with so much cinematic activity going on here, virtually any street could be a sound stage.

The CBS Western drama "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman" has a permanent set at Paramount Ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, about 30 miles west of Downtown. This archetypal Western landscape has been a TV and movie location since 1927. Now public land, visitors are welcome at the ranch to watch the action as Jane Seymour and company go through their paces. TV fans say it's worth the drive, because the cast has a reputation for being friendly with onlookers.

Call 818/597-9192 for shooting schedules.

L.A. lifeguards may feel as if they spend as much time answering questions about where "Baywatch" is filmed as they do rescuing swimmers. They are tight-lipped with details, though. The TV show has been shot on beaches up and down the Los Angeles County coast, but spends most of its time in the area from Santa Monica to Malibu, especially at Paradise Cove, 28128 Pacific Coast Highway. This private beach ($15 per car admission) is totally secluded from the road. Best advice for would-be Baywatchers: keep an eye out for a cluster of white trailers with the show's logo anywhere along Pacific Coast Highway.

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