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The Sony Pictures Studio Tour

Nov 19th, 2008 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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Last month Mike, from MovieShotsLA, his fiance Jen, and I decided to go on another studio stalking adventure. This time we opted for the Sony Pictures Studio Tour in Culver City. The studio lot that is now owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment (parent company to both Columbia and TriStar Pictures) was originally built in 1915 by producer Thomas Ince for his company Triangle Pictures. During that time, Culver City was quite a powerhouse in the motion picture industry. The city even touted itself with the slogan: “Culver City – Where Hollywood Movies Are Made”. In 1918, Ince sold his studio to Samuel Goldwyn of Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. Six years later the lot became the legendary MGM Studios when Goldwyn joined forces with Louis B. Mayer and Metro Pictures forming the conglomerate Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The rest, as they say, is history.

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During its heydey MGM liked to say it had “more stars than there are in the heavens”. And it was pretty much true. Such mega-stars as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Crawford all called MGM home at one time or another. Hundreds of hit movies were created within the historic studio walls, including Singin’ in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis, Ben Hur, David Coppefield and Grand Hotel. When billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, former owner of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, purchased the legendary studio in 1969, he sold off more than 150 acres of MGM’s property. In one fell swoop, the studio downsized from 183 acres to 30. :( Almost all of what was sold off was the studio back lot area, including the street Gene Kelly danced on in Singin’ in the Rain. How sad!! After several subsequent ownerships, in 1991 the former MGM Studios was purchased by Sony Pictures. The good news in all of this is that Sonyspent $100 million rennovating the legendary lot and also opened the place to the public for daily tours. It is that tour that Mike, Jen and I embarked upon last month. :)

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The tour starts off in the lobby of the Sony Pictures Plaza building (pictured above). As we pulled up to the building, Mike pointed out that the exterior was used in the filming of the 1987 movie Adventures in Babysitting in the scene where young Sara climbs the exterior of a Chicago skyscraper while her parents unknowingly attend a cocktail party inside. Love that movie!

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After checking in with out tour guide in the lobby of the Plaza building, we were given Sony Studio Tour VIP lanyards to wear around our neck which we actually got to keep! :) I was way excited about that! :) Then while waiting for the tour to begin, we were encouraged to walk around the Plaza lobby, which is a movie memorabilia museum of sorts. I absolutely LOVE looking at movie props and costumes, so I was extra excited about this part of the tour. One of the exhibits included Julia Robert’s wedding dress from Steel Magnolias and one of Cameran Diaz’s costumes from the first Charlie’s Angels movie (both are pictured above).

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Other items on display in the museum include, the gameboard from Jumanji,

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Annie’s letter to Sam and Jonah’s teddy bear and backpack from Sleepless in Seattle,

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artifacts from The DaVinci Code, including the book Tom Hanks character authored,

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Will Smith’s sunglasses and the notecards which contained his speech from Hancock,

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and Julian’s toys from Big Daddy.

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After milling around the museum for a few minutes, our tour was ready to begin with a short walk across the street to the entrance of the historic studio once known as MGM. Our first stop was probably my favorite part of the tour – the lightpost which Jennifer Garner posed with for the 13 Going On 30 promotional movie posters. The lightpost and background were all digitally changed after the photo was taken, but I could not have been more excited to pose there nonetheless! In fact, Mike, Jen and I almost got separated from the rest of our tour group because we spent so much time trying to get a photo of me in the exact same pose as Jennifer Garner. LOL :)

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Our next stop was the Irving Thalberg Building, an administration building which was built in 1936 and named for the legendary MGM producer after his untimely death at the young age of 36. Besides now housing all of the Columbia Pictures Best Picture Oscar statuettes, the building was also recently used as the site of Peter Parker’s high school graduation in the first Spiderman movie.

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Next we headed over to Main Street, where the studio commissary, cafe, and gift shop are located. Our tour guide told us that Main Street is often used as a filming location for productions being shot on the lot, but he didn’t know in particular which movies or television shows had filmed there.

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While there, he also demonstrated how most of the doors on Main Street don’t really lead to anything but a stucco wall. LOL

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Next we headed over to the only exterior/backlot type street located on the Sony lot – an East Coast looking Street, which can stand in for New York, Washington D.C., and even Boston. Both sides of that street are pictured above. The exteriors in the top photograph above were used as Jack Nicholson’s apartment building in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. During the filming of the movie, producers were trying to film a long shot of Jack walking away from his apartment building. Because there are no sidewalks located on this backlot street, Nicholson appeared very short when walking next to the cars parked along the side of the road. To fix the problem, producers simply removed the tires on all of the parked cars and voila, Jack appeared to be a normal height. LOL :)

After walking down the studio’s sole backlot street, we were taken through the main part of the studio, which includes many soundstages (27 is where they filmed The Wizard of Oz), the scene shop where humongous backdrops are painstakingly painted by numerous artists all working at the same time, the “scoring studio” (a favorite of Barbra Streisand’s) where scores from movies are recorded, and an interior set inside a soundstage that was used in the filming of the new Beyonce movie Obsessed. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures of any of these things. :(

All in all, the tour lasted about two hours. While the Sony Pictures Studio Tour was fun, and I was super excited that we got to keep our VIP necktags, I would say that I much prefered the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour and the Warner Brothers Tour. My favorite part of studio tours is seeing backlots where countless exteriors are filmed and unfortunately there just wasn’t enough of those to see on the Sony tour. :( So while I did enjoy myself, if you are a tourist who only has time for one tour, I suggest one of the other studios.

Until next time, Happy Stalking! :)

Stalk It: Sony Pictures Studios is located at 10202 W. Washington Boulevard in Culver City. You can visit their website and purchase tickets here. The tour cost is $28 per person and only those 12 years of age and older are permitted.

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