See behind the silver screen with Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Academy Museum

Warner Brothers Studio Tour puts visitors on and in working television sets, including “Friends” (Photo by Harrison Shiels)

Warner Brothers Studio Tour puts visitors on and in working television sets, including “Friends” (Photo by Harrison Shiels)


Hollywood can be an underwhelming experience for vacationers who visit the “Walk of Fame.” It’s initially exciting to see the Hollywood Sign soaring over the TCL Chinese Theater, but the “Hollywood and Vine” intersection area, while iconic, can be a grungy experience with difficult, expensive parking. Among the souvenir shops, celebrity impersonators and street walkers there are some bright spots, literally, such as the El Capitan Theater and its fancifully radiant marquee, operated by Disney, which is also home to late night television’s “Jimmy Kimmel Show.” If you submit an essay online about why you’re a fan of the host, you might get selected for free admission to a taping.

But if you want a guaranteed access to more than just an audience seat, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, in nearby Burbank, takes guests behind the curtain by opening the studio door and allowing you to walk right onto working sets. The day I took the tour we were led onto and through the sets for the CW television show “All American” starring Daniel Ezra as a high school football star and other sets, too. (I watched the show later that night from an entirely different perspective.) The Warner Brothers Tour is no tourist trap museum – it’s the real deal with plenty of sugar to sweeten the peek at industrial movie making.

“It’s an industry of lies,” my tour guide joked as he revealed tricks of the trade. Brick buildings are not made with bricks at all. Real wooden floors would be too noisy. And set dressing – light fixtures, door handles, cars and mailboxes – can make the same bare street corner turn of the century or present day anywhere in the world, including the spot Tobey Maguire’s “Spiderman” hung upside down to kiss Kirsten Dunst in the cold, pouring, studio-produced rain. “They bounce the water and really pour it on because real rain doesn’t show up on film. Tobey was virtually drowning so he had to put cotton in his nose.”
“Friends,” superheroes, and Harry Potter are highlighted elements of the Warner Brothers Tour. Guests can sip hot lattes in a recreated version of the show’s “Central Perk” coffeehouse and sit on couch or at the kitchen table in the apartment Jennifer Anniston, Courtney Cox and the other cast members did in the episodes.

A green-screen, special effects video experience allowed me to ride Batman’s Bat-cycle as just Christian Bale did while playing the Caped Crusader. The new Batmobile Robert Pattinson will drive was on display, too. An attentive staffer, who could see the wide-eyed look of a grown-up Batman fan, made sure I didn’t overlook the menacing vehicle and offered to take my picture with it.

The timed-entry, limited-number, indoor-outdoor Warner Brothers Studio Tour is a top-quality “info-tainment” experience well worth the $69 admission price. You can take as long as you like to linger through the fun exhibits and superb gift and apparel shop (which is worth stopping by to shop in even if you can’t take the tour.)

A more cerebral, even somber, experience is presented for the more serious-minded moviegoer at the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Wilshire Blvd. It’s open-air, third-story Dolby Family Terrace overlooks Tinseltown while the museum’s “Stories of Cinema” exhibits review the silver screen’s complex, diverse history and impact on the world. Backdrops, moviemaking equipment, animation techniques, costuming and props – including a shark from “Jaws” and C-3PO from “Star Wars” are included.

You can watch plenty of domestic and foreign film snippets and, after strolling through a gallery of moving (literally and figuratively) Academy Award acceptance speeches, you can experience what it’s like to win your own Oscar. Timed-entry tickets are $25. Next door the splashy Peterson Automotive Museum, starring hundreds of iconic, rare, historic and futuristic supercars, is currently showing “Bond in Motion – the Official Collection of 007 Vehicles.” Entry is $17 plus $25 for access to the priceless Hagerty Vault.

Contact Michael Patrick Shiels His radio program may be found at or weekday mornings from 9-noon on WJIM AM 1240

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