I finally got to visit Los Angeles for the first time last week! It was a short two day visit at the tail end of our San Diego trip. Being the epicenter of the motion picture industry, I knew I had to see some movie and TV locations! I wanted to do a studio tour because while I’ve seen lots of real life movie locations, I had never been on a backlot or sound stage. Well, there was that one time I got to sit in on Jimmy Fallon’s monologue rehearsal, but it wasn’t a live taping!
Anyhow, the studio tour I picked was Warner Bros.! It was my choice mostly because I knew “Gilmore Girls” and “Friends” were filmed there, but also because the cost and the length of the tour were perfect for our small budget and short visit.
To avoid making one insanely long blog post, I’ve divided our tour into three parts for each section of the studio we toured: backlot, sound stages, and museum. The backlot was my favorite, so that will be first!
B A C K L O T
The backlot is where the exterior sets are located. Some of them are facades (no interior), some of them are practical sets (filming can be done inside as well), and some are shell sets (room for a crowd to stand inside to enter/exit during a scene).
The first “street” we came down was Hennesy. It’s one of the oldest streets on the lot and it’s named after Dale Hennesy, the art director of Annie. The exterior of the orphanage in Annie, The Hudson St. Home for Girls, was filmed here on this street:
Next door to the orphanage entrance is the apartment building where Jim Carrey comes flying out the window and lands on the concrete in front of the Notary Public in the beginning of The Mask.
Another section of Hennesy St. is this alley way. This is where the famous upside down Spiderman kiss happened (just beyond the stairs on the right).
And this is the spot where Monica hides out while Rachel walks over to Jean-Claude:
On our way to Midwest Street (my fave area!) we passed these rolling foliage things that are used to block unwanted sights in the background of shots. The leaves are spray painted green so they can look fresh over and over again!
Of course you do! It’s Miss Patty’s School of Ballet! It’s located at the end of French Street, and the grassy area to the right has been used as Central Park in “Friends”, I believe in the episode where they play football.
Directly to the left of where we were parked in the above photo is a view of Midwest Street! This was my favorite area and you will immediately recognize it as Stars Hollow from “Gilmore Girls” and, currently, the city of Rosewood in “Pretty Little Liars”. I have to admit, PLL is my guilty pleasure so it was cool to see a set that’s currently being used for a show that I actually watch!
If you remember, one of the entrances to Stars Hollow High was the pinkish red brick building across the street (in the photo above). On the show it looked so far away from Luke’s, but really they are close together!
A little further down this same side of the street is where Doose’s corner market was (the yellow and green paint) and a fake dead end street to give the area some depth.
Looking to the right you can see the front side of the pinkish red brick building that was Stars Hollow High, but is now currently Rosewood City Hall in “Pretty Little Liars”. It’s probably been other buildings as well since our tour guide said that PLL has done a really great job at reusing locations for different purposes. It seems like maybe this was also the police station at one point?
Directly across the little park in the center of town is the church building. You’ll know it from “Gilmore Girls” and Pretty Little Liars” for sure!
Remember Ian from PLL? And his almost death scene from the bell tower at the top of the church? That guy went to my prom in high school. So random!
Across the street to the right of the church is a street of residential homes. I believe most of them are practical sets and they all sort of blend into one another on the inside. The house on the left corner was the Gellar’s house in “Friends” from the episode “The One with the Prom Video”.
It was also Mrs. Kim’s home/antique shop in “Gilmore Girls”:
Right across the street from that house is the house from the intro of “Growing Pains“. It was also the house from Gremlins.
The street that runs between the Gellar house and the Growing Pains house is lined with different residential house sets. Unfortunately it was blocked off during our tour so we couldn’t go any further, but we did find out that the construction happening at the end of the street is thanks to the PLL episode last season where they blew up Toby’s house. This would also be a good time to mention that Warner Bros. has its own fire department on site!
From the angle in the above photo, but looking back the other direction you’ll see the park area in the center of town and the spot where the gazebo used to be.
And here’s the other row of store front sets on Midwest St. (the side of Doose’s Market is on the far left):
Each section of the backlot is named after its design style. So, like above, we had the Midwestern looking shops and homes. Below is New York Street, made to look like an upscale urban area.
The underground subway entrance is a shell set, meaning there’s enough room for actors and extras to enter and exit below ground, but for an actual scene with a subway they would cut to a sound stage or location shot.
All the way at the end of the street to the left of where the picture above was taken is a fake ‘L’ rail. I believe this was a common place for “ER” scenes.
Just beyond New York St. is Embassy Courtyard, where this building below has been used in “Pretty Little Liars” as Radley Sanitarium and also Jenna’s School for the Blind.
In the Embassy Courtyard is New York Park. This was used in the “Friends” episode “The One Where Phoebe Runs”. It was also used in “Gilmore Girls” – the tree in the middle with the branch jutting out the side was Rory’s study tree at Yale.
We also drove past Brownstone Street, which was very picturesque of course. The tables at the end of the street are part of Commissary Park.
And that wraps up our backlot tour! A few things to note if you’re planning to go on this tour:
- The tour runs 2 hours and 15 minutes
- Each guide will cater your tour to your interests and what’s currently available to see.
- The groups are small (ours was 6 people) which makes it easy for everyone to see what they want and to get their questions answered.
- Visiting during a week day exposes you to some excitement of actual filming and prep going on. But because of that, you may not get to see as many sets. Weekend tours tend to have more sets available for viewing.
Continue with the tour!
Part 2: The sound stages where we saw the actual “Mike & Molly” set and got to sit in Central Perk!
Part 3: The museum filled with costumes and props from Batman and Harry Potter!
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