If you’re looking to take a studio tour while visiting Los Angeles, there are numerous options to choose from. Some of them are fairly basic tours of a movie studio, and on the opposite end of the spectrum is the Universal Studios Hollywood “World-Famous Studio Tour” which is more of a theme park attraction. But the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is a nice blend of the two. You’ll get a lot of foot-on-the-ground access to the working studio lot, but there are also certain areas designed specifically for the tourist experience. And now, Warner Bros. Studios Tour Hollywood offers a specially guided tour for fans of Hollywood’s golden age, called “Classics Made Here.”
Full disclosure, one of my first jobs when I moved to Los Angeles was as a tour guide at Warner Bros. But a lot has changed since those days of mine, driving the extended golf cart full of tourists around the studio.
It begins in a gallery space where you’ll wait to hear your tour group announced for departure. In this room, you’ll see a large recreation of the iconic WB water tower and several soundstages with a map of the studio below your feet. It’s a very cool display, especially if you have some prior knowledge of the studio lot layout. Here you’ll find various galleries highlighting the history of Warner Bros. For those guests interested in the classics, you’ll want to spend extra time in the “Classics to Contemporary” section.
Once your group is called, you’re escorted into a movie theater where you’ll see a montage of Warner Bros. clips, getting you even more hyped for the tour. Although this is the same montage shown to the other tours offered, it still features some of the classics. It wouldn’t feel right having a WB montage without including “Casablanca.”
After the montage plays, several tour guides come into the theater introducing themselves to the various groups. The tour guides who give the “Classics Made Here” tour are specially trained. They are fans of the classics themselves and are able to share more knowledge of the classics. As we hop onto our golf carts to ride around the lot, this is the portion of the tour that differentiates itself most from the standard tour.
Our well-informed tour guide, Jorja, was sure to ask us at the top of the tour if we had any favorite classics. She asked this in order to make sure she was showing us what we wanted to see. So, if you’re going on a WB tour, don’t be shy when this question is asked. They all want to make sure you’re enjoying the tour, so speak up.
Each of the tour carts are equipped with several monitors that are able to show clips of the locations you’re visiting, seen in films and TV. Earlier, I mentioned how the montage in the movie theater was the same for all tour groups. In this case, the clips shown are specially made for the “Classics Made Here” tour, only featuring the classics and history of the studio lot.
For me, the magic of a studio lot has always been the backlot sets. In the Midwest backlot, movies including “The Music Man,” “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Bonnie & Clyde,” and so many more were all shot there. But these old backlot sets don’t still exist simply because of their history. They’re all still used today. In fact, while I was visiting the lot, they were setting up the space for a new shoot.
Perhaps the most iconic location on the “Classics Made Here” tour is the last remaining exterior set from “Casablanca.” On the backlot French Street, this façade has been used in countless projects. But it’s never changed too much in order to honor its place in cinematic history. French Street can also be seen in the classic WB film, “Now, Voyager” starring Bette Davis.
After visiting a couple of other backlots, including New York Street where classics like “The Big Sleep” and “The Maltese Falcon” were shot, we headed onto the front lot, which houses the soundstages. We went into soundstage 25, one of the few soundstages commemorated with a name and plaque. Stage 25 is called “The Big Bang Theory” stage, as all twelve seasons of the hit sitcom were shot inside. The stage is currently used for the show “Bob Hearts Abishola,” but that doesn’t mean it’s only used for current projects. On the sides of each soundstage there are plaques highlighting some of the projects that shot inside. Stage 25 was used for classics including “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Casablanca,” “Giant,” and more.
On the front lot sits soundstage 16. This is the largest soundstage on the lot, and one of the largest in North America. The stage was raised from the bottom up for the film “Cain and Mabel,” adding onto its height. Another classic shot in here was the drag race sequence in “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean.
After our exploration of the backlot and front lot, our tour guide dropped us off at “Stage 48: Script to Screen.” Fun fact, in reality there are less than 48 stages on the Warner Bros. main studio lot. Stage 48 was given this name, as the building that once sat on this land was numbered building 48.
This self-guided portion of the tour links you back up with all other tours. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t classic memorabilia to check out. Inside, you’ll find costumes and memorabilia from “Casablanca,” and “My Fair Lady,” plus the leading ladies and gangsters of yesteryear cinema. It’s also worth noting that guests will be able to visit the real sets of modern classics like hit TV shows “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory” in Stage 48.
After touring Stage 48, learning about the script to screen process, grabbing a bite at a recreated Central Perk, and shopping in a one-of-a-kind “Friends” themed store, it’s back on the golf cart for a short trip.
On the way to the tour finale, we took a pit stop by the “Friends” fountain in order to snap a picture. The original location of this iconic fountain was down the street at the Warner Bros. Studio Ranch, but the public cannot gain access to that smaller lot. It was recently moved to the main lot in order for tour guests to enjoy it. For those interested in the classics tour, it’s fun to note that although this fountain was made famous by “Friends,” it was also used by The Three Stooges.
After that short pit stop, you’ll hop on another golf cart taking you to the “Action and Magic Made Here” self-guided finale. In here you’ll mostly find props, costumes, and photo opportunities featuring DC Comics and Harry Potter. But, for those classics fans, the last thing you’ll see before entering the gift shop are the airplane scene costumes from “Casablanca” and Professor Harold Hill’s suitcase from “The Music Man.” It’s a nice reminder that without the classics that made Warner Bros. the brand that it is today, there would be no modern classics.
Overall, if you’re looking for a studio tour with a great mix of real-life studio production and elements created especially for tourists, you can’t go wrong with any Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood option. If you’re a fan of classic cinema, the “Classics Made Here” tour is the one you’ll want to book. For those of you who want an even more expanded tour experience, they offer a Studio Tour Plus, as well as a Deluxe Tour. Learn about all of your tour options at www.wbstudiotour.com.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.