Star-struck in LA.
LA is, without question, the home of film and television. Hundreds of aspiring Aussie actors each year flock to the bright lights of Hollywood to try their hand at making it big in the US of A – and if past records are anything to go by, quite a few of them succeed. But whilst actors have agents and managers to get them onto the sets of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, for the rest of us, we have to find other means to join in on the action. Thankfully, there’s quite a few…
The best place to start the ultimate Film and TV lovers guide to LA is to jump head first into all of the action at Universal Studios Hollywood. Part theme park, part film studio, Universal Studios Hollywood is the ultimate over-the-top Hollywood experience, not to mention LA’s biggest attraction. Here you will not only get to visit a real life working film studio on the “World Famous Studio Tour”, but you’ll get to ride some of your favourites as well, including Jurassic Park, The Mummy, Transformers, The Simpsons and Despicable Me. All of the parks signature attractions are included in regular ticket admission, however, for those wanting to experience more of the behind the scenes action, then purchasing a VIP Experience is the way to do it!
With a Universal Studio’s Hollywood VIP Pass Experience you can view all of the great attractions above in a more personalized setting, ensuring you don’t miss a beat of this incredible destination. The VIP Pass will take you onto the iconic back-lot where you will be able to walk onto some of the permanent sets where Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters including Pirates of the Caribbean, Back To The Future, and War Of The Worlds were shot, along with a visit to a working sound stage where some of TV’s most popular shows, such as Desperate Housewives were filmed.
Being a working film studio means what’s being filmed changes daily – but no matter when you visit, the amazing VIP hosts will ensure you will get as close to the action as possible. Not only this, but once you’re time on the back lot comes to an end, they’ll escort you to a full buffet lunch and directly onto the parks biggest and best rides – no waiting in line! It really is the perfect introduction to the Hollywood lifestyle.
But it doesn’t end there. Sitting adjacent to Universal Studios Hollywood within the San Fernando Valley is the equally impressive Warner Brothers Studios. For those wanting a more hands on film studio experience – without the theme park attractions – then the Warner Brother Studios VIP Tour is the ultimate film and TV fan experience. Here, you will take a 10 to 12 seater golf buggy journey around one of the US’s most recognizable film studios and visit sets where numerous TV shows and Films were shot. To be honest, the Warner Brother Studios VIP Tour is an absolute LA must-do attraction for any lover of American Television.
For the TV enthusiast, this film studio is the hallowed ground where popular favourites such as The West Wing, ER, Seinfeld and The Big Bang Theory all film, along with cult classics and popular favourites such as Lois and Clark, Entourage, Hart of Dixie and Pretty Little Liars all shoot, not to mention TV’s biggest talk show: Ellen.
The tour also includes a visit to the classic Friends Central Perk set along with both the Warner Brothers Museum with its revolving set of props and costumes from beloved favourites such as Batman and Harry Potter, and the quirky Transportation Museum where you’ll find Scooby Doo’s ‘Mystery Machine’ and Chuck’s Nerd Herd vehicle. The whole tour takes approximately 2.5 hours and includes some shopping time at the VIP store where you can pick up some awesome merchandise from some Warner Brothers favourites.
By now you should have had plenty of time to explore the working side of the movie making business, and it’s time to see where the big names of the industry spend their evenings. No trip to LA is complete without taking a Starline Movie Star’s Homes Tour around the elite suburbs where the Film and Television royalty lay their heads at night. There’s no doubt about it, this LA institution is definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
Nowhere else in the world are you likely to spend a few hours driving around meticulously dressed homes peering at closed gates and fences for the chance to catch a glimpse of your favourite star or celebrity. But this experience is far more than visiting their homes – you can purchase a movie stars’ homes map from every souvenir shop in LA and drive yourself if you really wanted to – but you’d miss half the fun, as it’s the eccentric and quirky tour leaders and their random facts and trivia games that makes this experience a must do. Plus, you’ll never know who you will spot along the way.
For those wanting an ‘edgier’ version of the tour – with a chance to see some of Hollywood’s most infamous locations – then Starline Tours also offers a TMZ version of the tour hosted by the real life stars and journalists from the show, ensuring you’re experience is always fresh, current and up to date.
So now you’ve had a chance to experience the real lifestyles of the rich and the famous, it’s time to see some of their work first hand. Hollywood itself is home to three classic movie theatres with a long line of film history behind them. The most famous, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, is one of LA’s most recognizable sites – mainly due to the fact that it’s also the location of the celebrity handprints, along with many of the most recognizable star’s of Hollywood’s star-studded Walk of Fame. But what a lot of people don’t know is the movie theatre is still very much in use, and, except during special events, is open for visitors to experience for themselves. Just buy a ticket at the window and let two to three hours drift by while you take in a movie in the same theatre that numerous premieres have taken place.
And speaking of premiere’s, website www.seeing-stars.com is a terrific site to check out in the weeks before your Hollywood visit to see where the biggest movie premieres are taking place. On average, there’s at least one or two premieres in and around the LA area each week – many at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre – providing a great way for you to get up close and personal to some big name celebrities. There’s normally always a general public viewing area, and if you’re lucky (and get there early enough) you may also be able to grab some elusive celebrity autographs. Best of all – it’s FREE!
Another free Hollywood experience is to get tickets to a TV show taping of one of your favourite shows. Website www.tvtickets.com provides free tickets to many TV shows taped in LA each week, including 2 Broke Girls and The Millers. Tickets to popular shows such as The Big Bang Theory are also available, however tend to see out within minutes of being released. Traditionally shows are released about one month before the taping – so check back regularly if you don’t want to miss out.
Or if you don’t mind what you see, and just want to experience the excitement of seeing a real life TV show taping, then visit the guest services booth at Universal Studios Hollywood for any last minute tickets going around. Another thing to remember is show’s traditionally film based on the US release schedule, which means show’s traditionally shut down between April and July for hiatus – along with popular holiday periods such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, so if getting the chance to see your favourite show in action is a priority, do your research first and avoid these black-out dates.
Next on the ultimate film and TV lovers guide to LA is a BRAND NEW experience being offered by Starline Tours. The new Movie Locations Tour, will take you past some of the city’s most recognizable ‘on-location’ film sets including Blade Runner, Pretty Woman, The Graduate, Double Indemnity and The Dark Knight Rises. The tour features stops at the iconic Bradbury Building as well as Union Station, both of which have been used as filming locations for more movies than you could possibly imagine.
Giving the vastness of LA, this tour is also a terrific way to see an enormous amount of LA in a short period of time, so the tour doubles as a basic LA sightseeing tour as well. This new tour doesn’t operate daily however, so make sure you plan accordingly which day to set aside some time for this incredible and unique LA experience.
Lastly, no visit to LA is complete without a visit to the home of Hollywood’s most illustrious honour: The Academy Awards. Sitting right next to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, within the elegant Hollywood and Highland complex is the Dolby Theatre – home to the Oscar’s. You can purchase a behind the scenes tour of the facility from the theatre entrance, or just wander the same journey on which the red carpet sits each and every February/March. And whilst you’re in the neighbourhood, jump across the street to the classic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, which, whilst also one of Hollywood’s most infamous hotels, was also home to the first Academy Awards some 85 years ago.
And there we have it – the ultimate Film and TV Lovers guide to exploring LA. It’s important to remember LA is one of the world’s most vibrant and ever-changing cities, meaning the city often has a plethora of other exciting experiences taking place – particularly for film and TV fans. These include museum exhibits, celebrity autograph signings, concert’s and even panel screenings and discussions on some modern day TV favourites, so check tourist guides before your visit. And no matter where you are, or what you’re doing, always keep your eye out for that, not-so-rare celebrity sighting. You never know who you might see!
And that’s a wrap.
Written by Michael Casiss,