Paramount Studios is the only remaining major studio left in Hollywood these days. It's also the longest-operating studio in general, still busy and fun to visit. They offer simple guided tours that accommodate eight visitors and one tour guide in an electric cart.
What the Paramount Studio Tour Is
At Paramount, you'll see a working studio. They don't stage things just to entertain tours. In fact, the only thing that's for visitors is the museum. Because of that, Paramount is a different experience every day.
On the Paramount Tour, you'll see a working studio. Visitors sometimes get to visit sound stages and sets, but only when they are not being used. One thing you probably won't see on the Paramount tour is someone making a major movie. This studio produces television shows most of the time.
Paramount Studio Tour Highlights
- Paramount's private movie theater, where they hold premieres and screenings
- If the shooting schedule allows it, you may get to go inside sound stages and see sets for shows.
- You might even see a star or two, but if you don't watch a lot of network television shows, you might not recognize them. Don't expect this to happen, just consider it a nice bonus if it does.
- Paramount's property includes the old RKO/Desilu lot where the classic comedy I Love Lucy was produced. Lucy Park is a hit with its fans. The small, landscaped area looks just like Lucille Ball's Beverly Hills back yard and has a replica of her New York apartment, too — so she could take publicity photographs there with her children without ever having to leave the lot.
- Other highlights on tour include Forrest Gump's bench and the Bronson Gate, where actor Charles Bronson got his name. It's also the place where Norma Desmond entered the lot in the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.
- You will also tour Paramount's extensive backlot, which is used for filming exterior scenes and includes sections that look like parts of New York and Chicago.
Is the Paramount Studio Tour Worth Your Time?
On its best days, the Paramount Tour is brilliant. It's a working studio, and that's a good thing in general if you really want to go behind the scenes of film production. But what you'll see is unpredictable. If you go on a day when little is happening, you could be disappointed.
Some visitors who write about the Paramount tour online rave about all the sets they visited and stars they saw. Others complain that all they did was stand around outside buildings without seeing anything.
Everyone likes how informal Paramount is, with each tour guide tailoring things to their group's interests. People also enjoy the suspense of not knowing what you might see or where you might get into. Unlike the other studio tours, they're much more generous about letting you take photographs, a bonus if you want to show all the folks back home what you saw.
A lot of the complaints come from people who visited when nothing was happening. In summer, most shows are on hiatus. During the end-of-year holiday season, many crews don't work. When that happens, Gary Wayne at seeingstars.com describes it best: "the blank, white exteriors of these barn-like structures have about as much charm as factory warehouses."
To maximize your chance of having a great tour, avoid summer and end-of-year holidays. If that's the only time you can go, it may still be worth it. That depends on how much you just want to see the place and whether you'll be heartbroken if you don't see any movie stars. Looking at the schedule of filmings you can get into at Audiences Unlimited can also help you figure out how busy things might be.
Tips for Enjoying the Paramount Studio Tour
- Bring your cameras. This is the only working studio that lets you take pictures on their tour.
- Studio security is tight and strict. Be prepared to show your ID to get in.
- The tour lasts about two hours. You'll get around part of the time in the cart, but there's also quite a bit of walking. Comfortable shoes are a good idea.
- Hollywood can be quite hot in the middle of summer. You'll find a hat, sunglasses and a bottle of water to be welcome accessories.
A fun thing to do on the same day as your tour is to watch Paramount film a TV show. Start by checking the list of current Paramount productions. Then go to Audiences Unlimited to see if any of them are shooting during your visit.
If you just want to watch something being filmed and don't care what studio it's at, find out how to get studio audience tickets in LA.
What You Need to Know About Visiting Paramount Studios
Check their current hours for the tour schedule. Reservations are required, and they charge an admission fee. The basic tour lasts about two hours.
Paramount's main entrance is at 5555 Melrose Ave. Parking is available in a paid lot almost directly across from the entrance. It's about 3 miles away from the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. If you're also visiting Hollywood Forever Cemetery, that's just north of Paramount, facing Santa Monica Boulevard.
The studio is also easy to reach by public transportation, but it takes two buses and half an hour to get there from the Walk of Fame - and only 10 minutes if you're driving or taking a shared rides service like Uber.