Universal Studios Hollywood - History Timeline
IMP (International Motion Picture Company) founded by Carl Laemmle.
The Universal Film Manufacturing Company formed.
August: Universal takes control of the Nestor Studio Operations in Hollywood. The Nestor ranch or Providencia ranch in the San Fernando Valley was called the "Oak Crest Ranch" in the film trade publications. Movie production begins.
December 3: The Oak Crest Studio grounds were open to the Public. The location of Bison 101 brand of western movies
July 10: With an eye to publicity opportunities, a second official opening is held of the Oak Crest ranch, as it is formally named 'Universal City'.
August 13: Fifty Chimallo Indians from the Isleta reservation near Albuquerque, N. Mexico, are moved permanently to Oak Crest and installed in their new quarters, along with 100 head of horses recently purchased in New Mexico.
September: Universal City (Oak Crest Ranch) Tour began bus excursions from downtown Los Angeles
From Moving Picture World around 1913:
March: Carl Laemmle's representative bought four tracts of land (Taylor, Boag, Davis and Hershey ranches) for $165,000. The 230 acre Taylor Ranch was to become the new Universal City Studio plant and the other three ranches the Back ranch.
Oak Crest Ranch / Universal operations began the move to the Lankershim, Universal City property.
Oct. 14. Universal City's third grand opening; this event was for the Universal employees. At this time Carl Laemmle announced the official public opening was planned for February 2, 1915. All of Universal's west coast operations had now moved to the Lankershim (Universal City) property.
Damon and Pythius was the first film wholly completed on the site in 1914.
From The Moving Picture World (October 3, 1914):
Building Universal City
From The Moving Picture World (date unknown)
From The Moving Picture World (date unknown)
When Laemmle learned the new facilities would not be ready by February, the official opening date was moved to March 15,1915. The delay allowed the two public relations events, the Great Train Ride from the east coast and a Beauty Contest Parade entering the main gates on March 15, 1915.
The Oak Crest Ranch became known as the "Universal Ranch" until it was leased as the Lasky Ranch in 1916, the site today is Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills)
Universal City had an official opening event on March 15 1915
Carl Laemmle invited members of the public to watch films being made (in exchange for a 25 cents admission fee). A chicken lunch box was also available for a nickel; the first step towards the Universal Studios theme park we know today!
Extensive outdoor construction on the backlot for Von Stroheim's 'Foolish Wives'
MCA (Music Corporation of America) is formed, as a booking agency for bands. Founder Dr Jules Stein and President Lew Wasserman would have a large part to play in the future of Universal in the 1950s.
July - Construction starts on Stage 28 for The Phantom of the Opera
Stage 12 is constructed, for the innovative musical "Broadway" - brand new methods were created for moving the heavy early cameras, and this was the first movie to be lit entirely with tungsten lamps, allowing a lot more control and more subtle lighting.
|1930||Following the advent of “talkies” around 1930 the studio had reluctantly to close the doors to paying visitors as the stages were not sufficiently soundproofed.|
|1935||As studio earnings were lower than expected, Carl Laemmle had to take out a loan of $750,000 to keep the studio afloat as Showboat (1936) was due to start production shortly. He agreed to a gamble - if he didn't repay the loan on time, the investment company Standard Capital could buy Universal for a flat $5.5m. Unfortunately, he lost the gamble.|
Universal Pictures bought by Standard Capital. The studio is renamed 'New Universal Studios'.
Showboat is released less than 2 months after Standard Capital takes control, and is a big box-office success. The Laemmle family can only watch from the sidelines.
|1939||Carl Laemmle dies on 24 September, age 72, having lost the studio he built from scratch.|
Universal merges with International Pictures to become Universal International
Decca Records becomes the new owner of Universal.
|1956||Gray Line Bus Tours have Universal International Studios part of their Hollywood tour, along with movie star homes and other Hollywood landmarks such as Will Rogers home and Disney Studios. The bus travelled around the backlot, seeing Colonial Street, Courthouse Square, the Tower of London set, western streets, and learning about the use of facades etc. Although there were no \'attractions\' on the tour, visitors appreciated the variety of different locations that had been built on the backlot.|
|1957||$500,000 fire destroys the New York Street backlot sets.|
MCA buys the Universal lot, mainly to enable them to make TV programmes using the backlot and studio facilities.
Construction starts on Stage 1.
|1960||Spartacus, directed by Stanley Kubrick, makes extensive use of the backlot and studio facilities.|
Start of Tram Tours. The studio commissary (staff restaurant) was in need of a business boost. Albert Dorskind (1922-2004) was the president of MCA at the time, and realised he could increase studio income by inviting tour buses to drive through the lot and stop off at the commissary during quiet periods. His first contract was with Gray Line Tour buses, but it soon became clear that the most lucrative move would be to run the tours themselves.
The Jack Benny Show moved into the newly opened Stage 1
1962 to 1964: Revue Studios Tour - conducted by Tanner Gray Line Motor Tours, "Dine with the stars" and a bus excursions on the backlot.
MCA acquires Decca and also Universal Pictures and leaves the talent agency business behind.
To Kill A Mockingbird is released, having shot entirely on the backlot.
|1963||July 9: The MCA Tower ("Black Tower") on the Front Lot is dedicated. The ceremony is commemorated by the production of "Golden Rivets".|
1964 – Universal
Studios Hollywood officially created. Albert Dorskind
(see above) persuades MCA Chairman Lew Wasserman to invest
$4 million in designing trams and building food courts, parking
lots and restrooms.
The total staff dedicated to this
part of the studio operation was one ticket seller, two guides
and two tram drivers. Admission was $2.50 for adults and $1.50
March 28: Universal City Schoolhouse on the Universal frontlot is demolished. Young stars such as Ann Blyth, Donald O'Connor, Deanna Dean had classes there.
Entertainment Center built at a cost of $5 million "where
special effects are illustrated along the movie streets of
May 15: $1million fire destroys a large portion of the backlot sets.
The Universal Tour Entertainment Center (Upper Lot) is opened for the start of the Studio Tram Tour, with the Stunt Show now sharing the Action Arena with an early incarnation of the Animal Actors show.
Ma and Pa Kettle Farm is opened to show off animal actors (date is approximate)
Flash Flood set added to the Studio Tour.
The Sheraton Universal Hotel opened to accommodate guests in Universal City.
Universal Amphitheater under construction.
Animal Actors Training Stage appears on the Upper Lot.
Adam 12 'Stage 70' attraction opens and the stunt show moves to the newly constructed Universal Amphitheater.
Torpedo Attack / Submarine set added to the Studio Tour.
Dirty Harry shot on New York Street
|1972||The outdoor Universal Amphitheater becomes a rock concert venue as the park expands across the hills overlooking the backlot. The Amphitheater is the venue for the Stunt Show during the day, and on summer evenings it's a high-specification concert venue.|
The parting of the Red Sea becomes a feature of the Universal Studios Tour.
The Burning House sets the Studio Tour "aflame" for the first time.
The Universal Amphitheater expands to 5200 seats to accommodate rapidly rising concert attendances.
Rockslide added to the Studio Tour, on the hillside currently supporting the rear of the Simpsons Ride building.
Collapsing Bridge added to the Studio Tour.
Earthquake shot on soundstages and New York Street sets
August: The "Land of 1000 Faces Make-Up Show" is premiered in an open-air auditorium on the future site of the Castle Theatre.
Treacherous Quicksand Pit becomes a feature of the Stunt Show.
The Runaway Train becomes a feature of the Universal Studios Tour.
The Ice Tunnel added to the Studio Tour, inspired by the Clint Eastwood movie The Eiger Sanction. The attraction has been rethemed twice since construction and is currently known as The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.
|1976||April 10: Jaws Experience (featuring a 25 foot long shark) begins terrorising the Studio Tour, following the outstanding success of the 1975 movie. The original "Bruce the shark" prop from the movie goes on display in the Upper Lot.|
The Screen Test Theater makes it's debut on the Upper Lot using Emergency! as it's theme.
Six Million Dollar Man® / Bionic Woman® Testing Center ("BIONIC" special effects demo) opens in Stage 32, replacing the Special Effects Stages.
Airport '77 opens in the Screen Test Comedy Theater.
Carl Laemmle Jr. dies, 40 years to the day after his father.
Battle of Galactica attraction is added to the Tram tour. The tram is stopped by a robot in a tank and ordered into a soundstage where an elaborate robotic laser attack is enacted on the tram. The Battle show building replaces the Rockslide - the whole attraction took 9 months to build.
Universal Amphitheater closes for renovation (including a roof) and reopens in 1982.
The Castle Dracula show opens in the newly constructed Castle Theatre
John Landis comedy The Blues Brothers shot on the backlot and on a number of locations.
Backlot location Colonial Street is moved across the backlot. Some of the original Colonial Street is used to construct Industrial Street.
Womphoppers restaurant opens as the Visitors Centre expands.
June 6 & 7: Japanese Cultural Festival
Universal Amphitheater reopens with 6251 seats.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas shot on soundstages
November 29th - Universal Studios Hollywood is featured in the "Steel" episode of The A Team, season two. Blue and white trams can be seen, along with a green trolleycar-type tram used for VIP tours. Other attractions visible include Jaws, The Burning House and The Ice Tunnel.
The Adventures of Conan: Sword and Sorcery Spectacular opens (created with Landmark Entertainment) in the Castle Theatre, based on the film Conan the Barbarian. Landmark were also working on the 2010 Special Effect Stage.
The A-Team Live Action Stunt Show premieres on the future site of Miami Vice and Waterworld.
Knight Rider car - A unique opportunity to sit in Michael Knights car KITT, and ask him/it questions.
February 8-10 and 15-17 - He-Man & Masters of the Universe themed meet and greet
July - Transformers themed meet and greet on the Upper Lot.
Courthouse Square is transformed forever for Back to the Future
The Color Purple shot on the backlot and on location.
March 18 – At the time the world’s largest animated figure, weighed in at seven tons, measuring over 30 feet tall, covered in 660 pounds of fur and with a bad case of banana breath – King Kong is added to the Studio Tour in his own 26,000 square foot New York themed soundstage. He's modelled after the star of Dino de Laurentis' 1976 movie version.
?date - Sound Trax recording studio opens on the Upper Lot.
|1987||September 4 - Fire destroys Spartacus Square sets.|
The Star Trek Adventure debuts.
Miami Vice Stunt Spectacular occupies the arena adjacent to the Universal Amphitheatre. The TV series was in production 1984-1989. This show replaces the A-Team Live Action Stunt Show.
Fall – Another stop on the ever-expanding Studio Tour is the world’s greatest natural disaster: Earthquake – The Big One. Simulating an earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale, its opening marked the most successful attraction debut in history. Earthquake the movie was released in 1975. The "soundstage" in which the attraction is housed was specially built and replaced the Tower of London set adjacent to Denver street on the backlot.
Some of the house sets on Colonial Street are rearranged for Tom Hanks comedy The 'burbs.
Universal Studios Hollywood has a record year for attendance, with visitors increasing by 21%, which is down to the runaway success of the Earthquake attraction.
MCA purchased by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.
November 6th – A large fire on the backlot destroyed up to a fifth of the permanent backlot sets including the New York Street, and some period cars for the Sylvester Stallone film Oscar. A security guard was later charged with arson.
May - Fievel's Playland is the first children's play area, including a live outdoor stage-based musical based on "An American Tail" (1986), on the future site of T2:3D.
June - Universal Orlando opens in Florida. A much larger area means larger versions of the Hollywood favourites are possible. Among the first attractions are versions of the Earthquake, Jaws and King Kong attractions at Hollywood that are single self-contained attractions rather than being parts of the tram tour.
March 15 – Following an unprecedented multi-million dollar expansion, the lower lot (named the “Studio Center”) is added to the attractions with the ¼ mile Universal Starway escalator linking it to the upper lot. The Studio Tour and World of Cinemagic are also now based at the Studio Center, as is the Lucille Ball exhibition "Lucy: A Tribute."
June In the new lower lot The E.T. Adventure premieres, based on Steven Spielberg’s enduring saga, inviting guests to soar on starbound bicycles in an effort to help E.T. find his way home.
The Blues Brothers debut performance in the park.
Summer: Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue opens. The show was originally in an outdoor venue and moved into the Castle Theatre later during it's 7 year run.
July: The fiery Backdraft attraction opens with a burst of heat, based on the Ron Howard film.
September 24: A fire in air-conditioning ducts above Backdraft causes the attraction to be evacuated. No members of the public panic as they thought the black smoke was part of the presentation.
The Burning House is finally extinguished as Backdraft takes over as the primary flaming attraction, and the Battle of Galactica is finally won (or lost) in preparation for the construction of Back to the Future - The Ride.
The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show opens (outdoor stage next to War Lord Tower).
Beethoven shot on the backlot, at a new neighbourhood built at the upper boundary of the studio.
May - Universal Citywalk opens immediately outside the gates of the theme park.
June – The first high-technology thrill ride opens, positioned at the edge of the Upper Lot; the simulator-driven Back To The Future – The Ride based on Robert Zemeckis’ 1985 film.
|1994||Flintstones Musical Revue opens (replacing Star Trek Adventure) and Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates 30 years of operation with a laser and fireworks spectacular called Spectrablast and a giant magic show Cinemystique.|
The Seagram Company Ltd. buys control of MCA and Universal Pictures.
July 4th - The Making of Apollo 13 attraction opened
Autumn – The live stunt show Waterworld – A Live Sea War Spectacular opens, based on the Kevin Costner epic, following Universal’s history of pushing the envelope on blending high-tech special effects, pyrotechnics and human stunt artists. Part of the Miami Vice stunt show set is retained, along with some props actually used in the Waterworld movie.
30 November: Fire Station 51 facility is dedicated.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker (long before South Park) make the short film "Your Studio And You" parodying 1950's corporate films. The 15 minute black & white film is commissioned by Universal executives, shortly after the studio was purchased by Seagrams. Click for more information.
Park – The Ride opens in the lower lot, setting
new standards for ride design and theming, and bringing Steven
Spielberg’s 1993 film roaring to life!
January 2 – The Flintstones Musical Revue closes
July 14th - A VIP tram catches fire at Six Points Texas - no one is hurt, but the tram and a section of Livery Stable set is damaged.
September 6th - A fire in a chemical store adjacent to Courthouse Square destroys the north side of the square. The sets are immediately rebuilt to the same designs.
Totally Nickelodeon attraction opens (replacing the Flintstones Musical Revue) and Fievel's Playland closes in preparation for the construction of the show building for Terminator 2: 3D.
The Land Before Time show opens.
The Ice Tunnel is rethemed as a mine shaft through a volcano for Dante's Peak.
Aquazone is a water play area adjacent to the future site of Terminator 2/3D.
Feb 18 - Victoria Station restaurant becomes Marvel Mania - a restaurant chain venture by Planet Hollywood and Marvel Entertainment.
June 29 - Small Solders - Behind the Scenes Experience
Western Shoot Out in Denver Street
May – The epic adventure Terminator 2/3D opens, featuring a state-of-the-art multi-million dollar 70mm 3D movie along with incredible live action effects and stunts. The theatre is custom built to house this attraction on a reinforced parking structure.
September – Beetlejuice Graveyard Revue closes after a 7 year run. The Castle Theatre is “dark” for the next two years, apart from one-off special shows and corporate events.
September 10 - Marvel Mania restaurant closes as the restaurant chain goes out of business.
November 18 - Globe Theater opens in the former Winston's Grill building opposite Terminator 2/3D. The venue is used for corporate events, meetings and banquets.
The Sheraton Universal Hotel is remodelled.
June 9 The Rugrats Magic Adventure replaces Totally Nickelodeon.
June 10 - Walkthrough maze based on the animated film Chicken Run opens on the Upper Lot in the former Marvel Mania restaurant.
Summer – The Studio Tour is updated with new LCD monitor screens, JBL sound system and DVD playback in the redesigned tour vehicles.
November 17 - Grinchmas event across the park to celebrate the release of The Grinch, filmed entirely on the studio lot.
?Shrek Live show outside Castle Theatre.
Spring – New
30,000 square foot interactive attraction, Nickelodeon Blast
Zone including The Wild Thornberry's Adventure Temple. The
War Lord Tower, a feature of the Upper Lot since the
start of the Tram Tour in 1964, is demolished to make room for
April - Animal Actors Stage has been rebranded to become Animal Planet Live!. The Animal Actors show moves into the Castle Theatre while the refurbishment takes place.
May - The Mummy Returns Chamber of Doom opens on the Upper Lot. The Ice Tunnel is rethemed once more as The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb to tie in with the Mummy films.
The Jaws Experience is upgraded with new fire effects to become Jaws on Fire!
September – Rugrats Magic Adventure show closes to prepare for Shrek 4D in 2003.
6th January - Wild West Stunt Show closes. The arena it occupied is still unused today apart from being transformed into a maze during the Halloween Horror Nights event.
March - Special Effects Stages opens spread across three former Cinemagic sound stages. Gladiator, Jurassic Park and The Mummy are featured in the demonstrations.
May – Spiderman Rocks! opens in the Castle Theatre.
Frankie Muniz comedy Big Fat Liar brings the backlot and Prop Warehouse onto the big screen.
14 March – E.T. The Adventure closes to make room for Revenge of the Mummy.
May 10 - Shrek 4D opens having replaced The Rugrats Magic Adventure Show.
Bruce Almighty shot on New York Street and Falls Lake
January - The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom walkthrough is closed to be rethemed.
May Van Helsing: Fortress Dracula walk-through maze opens, replacing The Mummy Returns: Chamber of Doom.
June 25 - Revenge of the Mummy indoor rollercoaster opens having replaced E.T. The Adventure.
August 2nd - Spiderman Rocks! closes.
Fear Factor Live opens in the Castle Theatre.
June 29th - War of the Worlds set added to the Studio Tour.
October - The Collapsing Bridge is quietly retired from the Studio Tour. The vintage attraction was the second mechanical effect to be added to the backlot tram tour (in 1972, after the Flash Flood in 1971) and is believed to have been decommissioned due to the cost of running repairs. (It's put back into operation in 2008).
December 14 - King Kong appears on the Upper Lot fresh from the New York premiere.
December: The NBC Universal Vision Plan is launched, proposing expansions / updating of production facilities, moving a number of Studio Tour attractions, adding new attractions and building a large residential development on areas of the backlot.
The Animal Planet Live stage is rethemed back to Universal Animal Actors.
May 26 - Picture Cars and animatronic dinosaurs are moved into position and the Greens Department is renamed the Transportation Department.
June - The new Studio Tour is unveiled. The Fast and the Furious replaces the Dantes Peak model set. New HD screens, a new Studio Tour video host (Whoopi Goldberg), new video introduction to the Flash Flood (from Al Roker, NBC weatherman) and a photo opportunity featuring the hosts of NBC's Access Hollywood finishes a great series of upgrades.
July - The upgrades continue with a new street stunt show featuring Zorro, adjacent to the sadly missed (still empty) Wild West Show venue, and new paintjobs all over the Upper Lot.
October - Halloween Horror Nights 13 runs over 7 nights
November 4: Van Helsing walk-through closes to be replaced by Universal's House of Horrors in Spring 2007.
Evan Almighty in production on Stage 27 and Falls Lake
February - Refurbishment of the CityWalk Cinema complex.
March 31 - Universal's House of Horrors opens in the former Van Helsing building.
King Kong moved from the Upper Lot
September: Back to the Future: The Ride closes
October: The Kwik-E-Mart Simpsons merchandise store opens in the former Time Depot building next to the future home of The Simpsons ride.
31 December: Marvel characters disappear from USH.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets in production on Stage 12 and Falls Lake
Spring: A new simulator ride based on The Simpsons opened.
1 June: A massive backlot fire destroys the New York Street facades, half of Courthouse Square, and the King Kong attraction.
Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Musical opens (Spring) and closes shortly afterwards.
December: The New York Street sets reopen after a mammoth reconstruction job.
June 26th: Special Effects Stage opens in the Castle Theatre after the premature closure of the Creature from the Black Lagoon musical.
Transformers: The Ride under construction (for a 2012 opening)
King Kong 360 3D debuts
The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb is rethemed to the Grinch's Cave for Grinchmas
|2011||The Wild West sets adjacent to the former Wild West Show arena are removed from the Upper Lot. Could there be a plan afoot to make better use of this area?|
May 25th: Transformers: The Ride opens
December 31st: Terminator 2: 3D closes
|2013||Attractions closed to make way for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter:
The Adventures of Curious George
Wild Thornberry's Adventure Temple
|2014||April 12th: Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem opens
September: Stage 28 demolished.
|2015||April: Springfield restaurants opened on the Upper Lot.
|2016||The Wizarding World of Harry Potter due to open|
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