Universal Studios - New York Street London Square and tourist tram
Universal Studios - New York Street London Square and tourist tram © Universal

Universal’s Video of the backlot fire and it’s reconstruction

At the bottom of this page is the original flash version of the video

(Note: this video was originally on yesterdays post which has been replaced with a video of the opening events)

Largest Set Construction Project In Hollywood History


Universal Studios announces the opening of four acres of newly rebuilt New York Street backlot locations. A fixture in Hollywood for decades, New York Street (which consists of 13 city blocks of buildings) has been the setting of countless commercials, television shows and feature films such as The Sting, Blues Brothers, To Kill A Mockingbird, Back To The Future, Frost/Nixon and Bruce Almighty to name a few. The shooting location burned in an accidental fire on June 1, 2008 along with the King Kong theme park attraction and a video vault. The site offers a wealth of creative opportunities for film and television production and an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood moviemaking for Universal Studios Hollywood theme park guests.

New Features

The overall design concept concentrated on detail work that would cater to modern filmmaking needs. The facade heights were increased 10 to 25 feet for an average total height of 40 to 50 ft. to give the big city downtown feel. The width of the main street was narrowed so the camera could capture both sides of the street in the same shot. The new facades have unobstructed interior shooting spaces that can be built out so productions can shoot interiors and exteriors without returning to a sound stage. Long vista shots through archways are now possible to give added depth to scenes.

For chase sequences, cameras can be positioned on the reinforced facade roofs or mounted on a crane to follow the action. The fire escapes are practical for use with actors and stunt people. The new Courthouse Square has a fire station large enough to hold a full sized fire truck. Next door to the fire station is a modular gas station that can be dismantled and stored according to the needs of production. As an added touch of realism, the manhole covers can emit special effects steam. London Square has chimneys rigged for special effect smoke.

Safety Features

Universal Studios partnered with the LA County Fire and Building & Safety departments to create new guidelines for fire safety in the innovative facades. They have fully automatic sprinkler systems, central fire alarm system, built-in fire separation areas and a separate water supply infrastructure for the hydrants and the sprinkler systems.


  • Date of Fire: June 1, 2008
  • Start of Construction: January 8, 2009
  • Open to Studio Tour: May 28, 2010
  • Open to Production Scouting: May 28, 2010
  • Open for Production: July 1, 2010
  • Investment in Total Rebuild (including King Kong attraction): $200 million
  • Universal Films Shot on New York Street: Changeling, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Sting, Torn Curtain, Back to the Future, Bruce Almighty, Blues Brothers, Frost/Nixon
  • Television Shows Currently Shooting on the Lot: Parenthood, Ghost Whisperer and Desperate Housewives

Image Gallery

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Original flash version of the video


Colin Davies

The editor of Film Review Online