By Frank Barron
Almost to the day of the disastrous June ’08 fire at Universal Studios’ Courthouse Square, the backlot attraction re-opened last week. It was a celebration with the famed USC marching band, Universal characters and top studio executives on hand.
A jubilant media crowd, and scores of workers still improving the nearby filming sites, were happy to see the excitement of the first tram tour rolling by filled with tourists. The tour center visitors are now enjoying trams that are equipped as “mobile movie theaters,” with Hi-Def flat screen monitors, all-new video content and state-of-the-art audio systems. Specially-trained tour guides are at the helm of each tram.
The re-opening marks a milestone in the largest set construction project in Hollywood history. It is an on-going project undertaken by the studio following the four-acre fire which impacted several famous film locations on the Universal backlot. Other locations are set to open in the spring of 2010.
Courthouse Square is the site of more than a thousand movie and TV shoots, dating back to the 1940’s. It is probably most widely known as the town square in the “Back to the Future” movies. It was also featured in the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Music Man,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Gremlins,” “The Nutty Professor” and many others. Steven Spielberg filmed it as the courthouse in “Amistad,” and it became Buffalo, N.Y., for Jim Carrey in “Bruce Almighty.” The CBS drama “Ghost Whisperer” started filming there in 2005, and will be back next week to resume production on the historic site. Courthouse Square is now ready for its close-up at Universal Studios Hollywood.