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Universal Studios celebrates backlot re-opening

Posted By Karen Young On June 25, 2009 @ 11:22 pm In Featured,News | No Comments

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BY PAULINE ADAMEK

The USC marching band, a slew of famous movie “characters,” plus a champagne christening welcomed the re-opening of Courthouse Square at Universal Studios Hollywood.  A fixture on the Universal Studios backlot, the world’s most-photographed town square –the site of over a thousand movie and TV shoots since the 1940s – Courthouse Square was partially burned in June 2008 during the four-acre Universal backlot fire. Now fully restored to its former glory, production resumes on location at the end of June with  “Ghost Whisperer,” the television series starring Jennifer Love Hewitt.

 Courthouse Square is probably best known as the main square of Hillsboro in the “Back to the Future” film series.

Courthouse Square is probably best known as the main square of Hillsboro in the “Back to the Future” film series.

Courthouse Square is probably best known as the main square of Hillsboro in the “Back to the Future” film series.  It was previously known as “Mockingbird Square” after serving as a principal location for the Oscar-winning drama “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  The cozy square was dressed as Buffalo, NY for Jim Carey in “Bruce Almighty,” as River City, Iowa for the great musical, “The Music Man,” as Wellman College for “The Nutty Professor,” and as the center of Sweet Apple, Ohio in the classic “Bye Bye Birdie.”  It’s even been overrun by “Gremlins,” by large people in “Village of the Giants” and aliens in “They Came From Outer Space.”  Steven Spielberg also filmed it as the courthouse exterior for his drama “Amistad.”

The grand re-opening event also marked the introduction of Universal Studios Hollywood’s new “mobile movie theater” trams, newly outfitted with state-of-the-art Hi-Def flat screen monitors, playback and high-end surround-sound audio systems. We were all treated to the full backlot tour, a special highlight being the avalanche of balloons, music and festivities when we passed through the Courthouse Square.

 Courthouse Square is probably best known as the main square of Hillsboro in the “Back to the Future” film series.

Courthouse Square is probably best known as the main square of Hillsboro in the “Back to the Future” film series.

Universal Studio’s World Famous Studio Tour is fantastic fun because it gives you a chance to go behind the scenes and see how Hollywood magic is really created. Right now you can see some brand new movie sets – some of which are being built – while breezily coasting along in trams.

The tram ride hasn’t changed that much since I first experienced it over ten years ago, but there have been some notable updates. Now when you are in the spooky snow tunnel, you need to watch out for the scarab beetles shock effect.  Passing by the famous set of “Psycho” – namely the Bates Motel and the creepy old house on the hill – you might get a glimpse of Norman Bates putting Marion’s slashed corpse into the trunk of her car.  Freak out!
Here are some other new stops on the re-vamped tram route:

Encounter awe-inspiring wreckage like never before at Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds.
See Wisteria Lane from ABC’s hit TV series Desperate Housewives.
Witness the explosive special effects of the Fast and the Furious: Extreme Close-Up.
Check out actual Skull Island set pieces and miniatures from the movie King Kong.
And just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water… Jaws is waiting deep beneath the waters on the backlot. You’ll wish you were on a bigger tram.

The Universal Studio’s Tram Tour is included with park admission.

Universal Studios Hollywood  100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com

Pauline Adamek is a Hollywood-based film, theater, and food critic who writes for FilmInk Australia, the Los Angeles Daily News and the Sun Community Newspapers, as well as various websites under the “nom du net” Max Million. Contact her at www.paulineadamek.com

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