Warner Bros. Studios (usually spoken as Warner Brothers Studios) is a movie and television studio in Burbank, California, just north of Los Angeles, where popular TV shows and blockbuster movies continue to be made. Warner Bros. Studios, with its iconic WB water tower, can be visited on a Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood. Although they added "Hollywood" to the tour name, Burbank is actually on the other side of a mountain, about a 20-minute drive from the heart of Hollywood.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is a combination of tram and walking tour that takes you through exterior street sets and into soundstages onto the set of current productions. The tour changes depending on which sets are currently in use, so visiting on different days or different seasons could result in a completely different tour. Usually, tours go onto one talk show set and one fiction set, which might be in the audience area of a sitcom set or walking through interiors used in a current drama.
In 2015, Warner Bros. assigned Stage 48 a permanent role on the tour, housing a selection of interactive permanent exhibits including the Central Perk set from Friends, where you can act out scenes on video or just take snapshots; a Harry Potter set that demonstrates forced perspective by making one person at the table look much smaller than the other; a number of green screen photo and video opportunities and tons of interactive opportunities to learn about pre and post-production involved in making TV and movies. The activities are all a lot of fun. I tested them out myself. Stage 48 also includes an expanded Studio Store with tons of TV and movie-related clothing and souvenirs.
In addition to the standard Studio Tour, Warner Bros now offers a Deluxe Studio Tour which goes more in-depth, includes post-production facilities and a 3-course lunch in the commissary. Deluxe Tours depart once daily at 10 am.
Warner Bros. Studio Tour Center
Address: 3400 Riverside Drive, Burbank, CA 91522 Map
Phone: (818) 972-8687
Hours: Tours depart continuously Mon-Fri 8:00 am - 4 pm, extended hours in spring and summer. Ticket office is open from 7:30 am - 7 pm, Deluxe Tours depart at 10 am.
Time Needed: 2.5 hours for the tour, leave plenty of time to park and wait in line.
Tickets: Check website for current prices. Advance reservations recommended.
Age Limit: 8 and up
Accessibility: Call (818) 972-8687 between 8:30 am and 5:30 pm to make special arrangements if anyone in your party has special needs.
Security: Adults must present a valid government issued ID (drivers license or passport), and are subject to have their personal belongings searched.
Parking: Additional fee
From 134 Freeway East. Exit Pass Avenue, turning right onto Pass. Turn left at the second light onto Riverside Drive. Take Riverside past Hollywood Way. Turn right at Avon Street and turn left onto Warner Blvd. following the signs to VIP Tour parking. Do not enter Gate 5.
From 134 Freeway West. Exit Hollywood Way, turning a double left onto Hollywood Way. Turn left on Riverside Drive, cross Olive Avenue and turn right onto Avon Street. Turn left onto Warner Blvd. following the signs to VIP Tour parking. Do not enter Gate 5.
The Warner Bros Studio Tour is included in the Go Los Angeles Card. You can also buy a Starline combo ticket for a Movie Stars Homes Tour and the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
Warner Bros. Pictures was created around 1918 (incorporated 1923) by the four Warner brothers, (born Wonskolaser) - Harry (born Hirsz), Albert (born Aaron), Sam (born Szmul), and Jack (born Itzhak), who already had a thriving movie theater business.
In the early days, Warner Bros. had a hard time keeping up with older studios like Paramount, MGM and First National, which led them to become innovators just to try to make a profit. In 1927, they created the first film with music and synchronized sound, The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, and in 1928 the first all-talking feature, Lights of New York. In 1929, they were the first to release an all-color talking feature, On with the Show.
The current Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank, CA was built in 1926 by First National Pictures and acquired by Warner Bros. in 1928 with the money they made form The Jazz Singer. Two of the oldest exterior sets, New York Street, and Ashley Boulevard, formerly known as Brownstone Street, have been used in hundreds of productions since then.
The company has merged, transformed and changed hands many times over the years, but Warner Bros. Pictures has continued to operate (currently as part of the Time Warner conglomerate) as a movie and television production studio with dozens of indoor soundstages and exterior sets. Long-running shows that film at Warner Bros Studios include Ellen and The Big Bang Theory.
Most sets are re-purposed and transformed when a production is finished, but occasionally a set is preserved in its entirety, like the Central Perks coffee shop from Friends, which can be seen on the tour on Stage 48.
The Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is a guided tour that takes you to various set locations on a small tram, kind of like an extended golf cart. At each stop, you get out and explore on foot. Cameras are allowed on the cart and in some outdoor areas and in exhibits, but not inside the soundstages.
Exterior locations could include a ride down Brownstone Street, now called Ashley Boulevard or a trip down New York Street, which doubled as Chicago for the filming of the TV show ER. If there's no one using the set, the tour stops at County General Hospital, with the famed Jumbo Mart across the street. Rather than seeing urban Chicago behind the Jumbo Mart, you see the bucolic Hollywood Hills.
You might venture through Midwest Street, with its grass lawns, storefronts and central Gazebo used for everything from The Music Man to Gilmore Girls. There's also the original Tenement Street with alleys full of fire escapes resembling New York's Lower East Side. Warner Bros. renamed Tenement Street to Hennesy Street after it was redesigned by art director Dale Henessy for the movie Annie. It was used more recently in the Batman films.
Inside a Soundstage
Which TV or movie set your tour will visit on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood will depend on which sets are not currently taping. On my first tour, we visited the set of the NBC show Chuck. Cameras had to stay locked up in the cart while we explored the courtyard of Chuck's apartment building with its central fountain, carefully navigating cables and ladders, and had a peek at Chuck's apartment.
On the "back room at the Buy More" set, our guide Tetris entertained us by casting a couple of tourists to act out a scene while he mimed the cameraman shooting the same scene from many angles. I really wish I had had my camera for that one.
We drove by the Ellen soundstage, but taping was in progress so we couldn't visit. Ellen usually tapes Monday through Thursday, so there's not much chance of getting in there except for the occasional Friday and when they're on hiatus.
On my second tour, we visited the Conan O'Brian set and the live audience section of 2 Broke Girls.
Personally, I find it more interesting to see the sets where fictional stories are taped, rather than talk show sets, since they're more colorful, but you never know what you're going to get. The selection of sets that tours can visit is much greater when many shows are on hiatus, so summer and holidays are a good time to take the Warner Bros. tour.
The Picture Car Museum
In 2009, Warner Bros Studios opened the Picture Car Museum on the Warner Bros. backlot. The one-room car gallery showcases some of the more spectacular vehicles that have graced the silver screen. Vehicles have included included the Tumbler monster car from The Dark Knight, numerous Batmobiles from all the Batman movies, the British flag car from Austin Powers, the psychedelic Mystery Machine van from Scooby Doo, the Gran Torino from the movie of the same name, a red convertible from the 2008 Get Smart movie and a Nerd Herd car from Chuck, just to name a few.
The Warner Bros Museum
The Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood makes a short stop at the Warner Bros Museum. Our stop might have been extra-short because we dawdled elsewhere and asked a lot of questions.
Much of the focus is on costumes and some props. On my most recent visit, the lower level was devoted to all incarnations of Batman for the 75th anniversary. The entire second story of the museum is devoted to all things Harry Potter.
The Friends Set
The popular TV sitcom Friends was filmed on the Warner Bros. lot from 1994 to 2004. After the series finale in 2004, the Central Perk coffee house set was moved from the soundstage and recreated next to the Prop House, then to an exhibit at the Paley Center for a while and back to a new home at Stage 48 where it remains as a historic icon that visitors can explore on the tour. It's also used as part of the Stage 48: Script to Screen interactive exhibit, where visitors can act out scenes from the TV show with cue cards and see themselves inserted in the video with original cast members. When that's not going on, anyone can take a seat and grab a snapshot.
Details of the Friends set include an old laptop computer left open on a table and Phoebe's guitar. The neon lights are still on, and the chalkboard menu offers "Java - filtered through the finest skid row hankies we get a brew so thin you'd think it's tea."
There is also a working Central Perk Coffee House and snack bar in Stage 48 where you can get coffee and sandwiches.
Stage 48: Script to Screen
In 2015, Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood opened Stage 48: Script to Screen, a collection of exhibits and interactive experiences that has added tremendously to the tour experience. Exhibits include the Legacy Exhibit of Emmy's, Academy Awards and historic memorabilia and costume exhibits from past and current shows. You could spend a couple hours doing all the interactive activities like this interactive exhibit that allows you to design your own superhero vehicle.
Green Screen Fun at Stage 48
Of the three green screens in operation when I was there, the Harry Potter flying broom is significantly more fun for video than Batman or Gravity because you have a lot more screen time and more diverse scenery to navigate.
The Batman scene here is also fast-paced for the video, but you're out of the action more of the time.
No matter how much you liked the movie Gravity, that one really isn't very interesting, so they'll probably replace it with something else.
The Forced-Perspective Set
Green screen photos and videos are pricey, as at most places, but you can take free photos at the Harry Potter forced-perspective set seen here. The staff photographer will usually even take them for you with your phone or camera.
A forced-perspective set uses specially designed furniture and background to give the impression that some things in the frame are bigger or smaller than others. The camera has to be placed at a very specific spot in relation to the scene to get the desired effect.
Motion Animation on the Warner Bros. Studios Tour
See how human movement creates the motion of animated characters with interactive exhibits in Stage 48 on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood.
Central Perk Revisited
The new Central Perk coffee shop and snack bar in Stage 48 on the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood is not nearly as comfy as the original set from Friends, but at least they sell real coffee and other refreshments, which are welcome after the 2-hour tour and sometime playing around at Stage 48.
The Warner Bros Visitor Center and Commissary
The ticket counter for purchasing or picking up tickets for the Warner Bros Studio Tour Hollywood is inside the Warner Bros Studio Tour Center across from the parking lot. A giant Bugs Bunny outside the front door lets you know you're in the right place.
On the other side of the building, past the security area, is the staff cafeteria, which is a nice place to grab a snack or meal after your tour. You never know who might wander in for a bite.