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Most people associate the name Universal Studios Hollywood with the theme park, but the truth is that the place started (and is still functioning today) as a movie studio. Universal Studio is the largest movie studio in the world and is one of the oldest in the US. While the Hollywood studio is the original one, there are now similar parks built all around the world, including in Singapore, Dubai and Japan.
Universal Studios Hollywood is owned by NBC Universal. The park's opening hours vary, but most of the attractions are open at least between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Aside from attractions and rides, the park also offers changing exhibits (connected to popular current movies), 24 restaurants, dozens of shops and giant screens, spread throughout the park, where visitors can watch clips or shorts. The park prides itself for its "Streetmosphere," which includes lots of character interaction, live shows and musical parades. While characters do change from time to time, some are classic and will be kept around as part of the park's history, including Woody Woodpecker, Groucho Marx, Count Dracula, Beetlejuice and Crash Bandicoot (a Playstation game character).
Theme Park History
The original Universal Studios Hollywood park didn't officially open in Los Angeles County, California until 1985, when the King Kong ride was established. However, the studio had been offering rides and attractions since the mid 60s, at first simply offering a train ride around the studio. At the time, many of the park's attractions consisted of simple rides and live shows, most of which had been retired throughout the decades. For example, the park originally had a live stage show called The Land Of A Thousand Faces, where two chosen audience members were transformed into movie monsters by makeup artists. Retired rides include classics such as E.T. Adventure, Fievel's Playland and Back to the Future: The Ride. Because the park aims to keep up with the public's taste and interests, live shows are also replaced regularly, with The Simpsons and Nickelodeon taking over former popular cartoon attractions.
Rides and Attractions
Universal Studio has about 16 movie-related rides and attractions running at any given time. Most of the attractions are directly connected to blockbuster films or classic movies that are easily recognizable, such as Terminator 2: 3D, The Adventures of Curious George, Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride and WaterWolrd. Many of the rides in Universal Studios Hollywood are thrill based, including roller coasters and motion rides. A good example is the Jurassic Park ride, which includes a vertical 84-foot raft plunge.
Universal Studios Hollywood was first and foremost a movie production studio for most of its life. Opened in 1909 as the IMP (International Moving Pictures), it produced its first film in 1914, a historical war movie called Damon and Pythias. A year later, the studio was open to the public, allowing visitors to see how films were made. In 1959, MCA bought the studio in order to start making TV shows and programs in the smaller rooms and studio facilities. In 1961, the studio started offering backstage tours to visitors through small tram buses and trains that would stop at different stages in between takes and filming. Famous films produced at Universal Studios Hollywood include To Kill A Mockingbird, Hitchcock's The Birds, Showboat and Spartacus.
The Studio Tour is a tour offered to visitors who want a glimpse into the history of the studio. The Universal Studios Tour started in 1964 as a simple ride around the area but today it's a full-fledged 50 minute ride that stops at different stages and showcases many props used in filming. For example, the Universal Studios has a giant water tank (15 foot high and 25 feet in diameter) used to film underwater scenes in movies, as well as the Psycho House used in the Hitchcock movie and part of the sets used in Ron Howard's version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The tour also takes visitors inside soundstages, production facilities, prop warehouses and exhibits. Other famous attractions throughout the tour include a ride-like Flash Flood simulation, a collapsing bridge and a King Kong model set that includes a ship and parts of Skull Island.