The Warner Bros. lot in Burbank has long been a popular attraction for tourists seeking a look behind the scenes of real movie and TV productions, as well as a chance for history buffs to see where glamorous stars worked and famous films were made. But when the public studio tour reopened on June 26 following a 15-month pandemic closure, it was more than a triumphant return of a familiar favorite — it also unveiled expanded features designed to immerse fans in the entertainment they love. To accompany our article on the history of this iconic local landmark, we caught a sneak peek of the new Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood to see how guests will experience a journey through the site’s past and present.
The tour begins in a brand-new welcome center housing a vast new studio store with merchandise from Warner Bros.’ best-loved movies and TV shows. (Locals looking for unique gift ideas for the fans in your life, take note: The store is open to the general public, not just to tour-goers.) The first stop is the Storytelling Showcase, which details the studio’s nearly 100-year evolution from fledgling cinema exhibition business to one of the world’s largest entertainment companies. Photos, movie posters and artifacts from the archives —including Jack Warner’s collection of classic film scripts and the microphone used in the breakthrough “talkie” The Jazz Singer — bring the past to life. Visitors can also watch Looney Tunes cartoons, explore an aerial view of the studio lot and pose with a replica of the famous water tower.
The central feature of the tour hasn’t changed: a tram ride around the backlot with tour guides who point out notable filming locations and offer glimpses of active productions on the sound stages. A stop at the Stage 48: Script to Screen exhibit provides an interactive look at technology and the production process, including a demonstration of Foley sound effects and the chance to use an automated dialogue replacement (ADR) booth to voice Harry Potter in a movie scene. Stage 48 is also where the studio’s extensive tribute to the beloved TV show Friends resides. Fans can eat at the Central Perk Café (where the menu includes Rachel’s Thanksgiving trifle … sans meat), pose for photos with re-creations of the coffeehouse and apartment sets, see costumes and props, and shop for themed souvenirs.
The grand tour finale is the new Action and Magic Made Here exhibit, which spotlights some of the studio’s hottest properties, the DC Universe and the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films, with interactive experiences, props, costumes and photo opportunities. Fans of superheroes and villains can step into the Batcave to get close to the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s original Batman, pose with Aquaman’s trident, and see costumes ranging from Christopher Reeve’s Superman to Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn. For those who prefer the world of wizardry, there’s a chance to pose in Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, try potion-making, find your Hogwarts house with the Sorting Hat and much more.
While the new additions emphasize modern pop-culture icons, a visit to the Warner Bros. lot shows that history is never far away. Lovers of the classics should keep an eye out for the Celebration of Awards Season display at the conclusion of the tour, which shows off some of the studio’s Oscars and Emmys along with props that include a trombone from The Music Man and Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s costumes from Casablanca. And everywhere you’ll spot remnants of Old Hollywood, like the signs on each sound stage memorializing the famous past productions filmed there, not to mention the reverence in people’s voices when they describe the studio’s storied past.
“Warner Bros. has always been sitting upon such a treasure trove of legendary history,” Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins said at the tour’s media preview event. “When I get to walk around the lot and realize that I’m shooting on the stage where Casablanca was shot, or where A Streetcar Named Desire was shot … so many movies that we worship happened right here. I think it’s incredible for people to get to come in and look at the photographs, look at the props, look at Jack Warner’s address book, because our entire city is based on this film industry, and what a major anchor Warner Bros. has been to building that industry, so of course there should be a great museum to celebrate all of that.”
To learn about the history of the Warner Bros. studio lot, read “The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of.”