Warner Bros. Studio is one of the most iconic studios in the world. The company was founded by four brothers, Harry, Jack, Sam and Albert Warner, on April 4, 1923. Though the brothers found early success with movies, especially the many features starring the famous German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin, it was the October 1927 release of The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length “talking picture,” that elevated the studio to powerhouse status. Shortly thereafter, Warner Bros. bought First National Pictures, a production and film distribution company. Along with the purchase came the acquisition of FNP’s 68-acre studio lot in Burbank. In 1930, Warner Bros. relocated its headquarters from Hollywood to the newly-acquired facility and it has remained in Burbank ever since.
Today, the sprawling studio comprises 110 acres of movie-making magic. Virtually all of it is accessible to the public via the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood. The two-hour guided tour leads groups through the vast backlot to explore working soundstages, realistic sets, art and prop departments, and ends with a self-guided visit to the newly-launched Stage 48: Script to Screen, an interactive exhibit that shows visitors the inner-workings of filmmaking.
Over the years, practically every square inch of Warner Bros. Studio has appeared on the big and small screen in hundreds of thousands of legendary and award-winning productions that have been lensed on the lot. Read on for ten iconic locations you must see during your visit to Warner Bros. Studio. To help you find these spots, check out this Google Map.
Anytime a scene took place at Gotham City Police Headquarters on the 1960s television series Batman, the Dynamic Duo would be shown running up the steps of the lot’s Embassy Courthouse, aka Building 61. In actuality, only one establishing shot of the structure was ever taken. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the same footage was shown over and over again throughout the show’s three-season run. The stately courthouse façade, which was originally constructed in 1928, was also where Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) and Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) discussed fatherhood in the 2013 Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo, and where Ezra Fitz (Ian Harding) took Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale) on their first official date in Pretty Little Liars.
Though many real world locations were used in the filming of Ridley Scott’s gritty 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner, the Warner Bros. backlot also got some screen time portraying futuristic Los Angeles in the flick. The hotel where Leon Kowalski (Brion James) lived – and kept his “precious photos” - can be found in the New York Street area of the studio. The pillared three story façade was dressed considerably and covered with neon signage for the shoot, but is still largely recognizable. The same edifice also regularly popped up as the exterior of the Daily Planet offices on the television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and it was just outside of the structure that Jim Carrey treats a police squadron to a rousing rendition of “Cuban Pete” in the 1994 comedy The Mask.
In the 1983 classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family embark upon a road trip from Chicago to California in order to visit the famed Walley World amusement park. All does not go as planned, though. During their first night on the road, the Griswolds get lost in a particularly bad section of what is supposed to be St. Louis, Missouri. The segment was actually shot at Warner Bros. After first driving through the studio’s Brownstone Street, the family makes its way to an oft-filmed corner of Hennesy Street, where Clark stops to ask for directions. The locals don’t prove helpful, and the Griswolds leave sans directions and hub caps, but with some choice graffiti sprayed across the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. The same spot where Clark asks for directions also masked as Rafaela’s Salon in 2008’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and was where Diane Keaton tells Jack Nicholson that she loved him in 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give.
One of the most famous kisses in all of moviedom took place in the 2002 hit Spider-Man. In the scene, Spidey (Tobey Maguire) rescues his favorite damsel-in-distress, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), from a gang of local thugs on the streets of New York. She returns the favor with a kiss – while Spidey hangs upside-down from a building next to a fire escape in the pouring rain. In reality, the smooch sequence was not shot in the Big Apple, but in a tucked away corner of the studio’s Hennesy Street set. Originally known as Tenement Street, the New York-inspired area of the backlot was redesigned by – and re-named in honor of - production designer Dale Hennesy for the filming of the 1982 musical Annie. The same spot utilized in Spider-Man also portrayed the downtown Okinawa, Japan street where Sato’s dojo was located in The Karate Kid, Part II; where Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) attempted to smoke a cigarette before being halted by studio security in the Season 3 episode of Sex and the City titled “Escape from New York”; and served as the rear side of the Hudson St. Home for Girls in Annie. The front of the Annie orphanage, which was modeled after the Pencer House in New York, can be found on the western portion of Hennesy Street.
A grand brick-faced façade that stands at the northwest end of Midwest Business Street regularly appeared as the Hazzard County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Office on the 1979 television series The Dukes of Hazzard. The edifice is famous for much more than being Boss Hogg’s former stomping grounds, though. The same exterior also served as the police station where Jim Stark (James Dean) was taken after being arrested for “plain drunkenness” in Rebel Without a Cause; as the Latham, Massachusetts courthouse where Jerry and the rest of the “New York Four” were tried and convicted of not upholding the Good Samaritan Law in the final episode of Seinfeld; and as Rosewood High School on Pretty Little Liars. The adjacent - and very similar looking - brick-faced façade located just north of the courthouse was also utilized on The Dukes of Hazzard as the Hazzard County Building.
In the mid-1990s, a large Chicago-themed set consisting of a hospital façade, an ambulance bay, and “L” tracks was constructed on the eastern edge of the WB’s New York Street for the filming of the television series ER. A diner façade was later built directly across from the hospital facade to mask as Doc Magoo’s, the after-work hangout of Doug, Mark and the rest of the Cook County General gang. Doc Magoo’s, which later became the Jumbo Mart, is a practical set and filming took place both outside and inside the structure. During ER’s 15-season run, emergency room and train station signage were posted on the various façades, making them instantly recognizable to tour-goers. Though those signs are no longer in place and despite some alterations, the edifices should still be familiar to fans of the series. Since ER went off the air in 2004, the Chicago sets have gone on to star in many other productions, including Pretty Little Liars. The Jumbo Mart most notably got a second life as both Kash and Grab and Patsy’s Pies on the Showtime hit Shameless.
One of the most iconic and recognizable sets in the history of television is the Central Perk coffee shop from the hit series Friends. During the filming of the show, the set was situated first inside Soundstage 5 and then inside Soundstage 24. (After Season 1, filming of the series moved from Stage 5 to the larger Stage 24.) When the “Must See TV” hit went off the air in 2004, its sets were dismantled and put into storage. The Central Perk set was reconstructed inside a small room in the Warner Bros. Property Department and was made a part of the studio tour. It proved so popular that it was recently relocated to the newly-unveiled Stage 48: Script to Screen exhibit, where tour-goers are invited to take photographs and even re-create iconic scenes while sitting amongst the familiar furnishings. The only thing missing is the coffee – and Gunther. Don’t fret, though; while Gunther is no longer on staff, java drinks can be ordered at a functioning Central Perk-themed café located next to the set.
The long-running television series Gilmore Girls was set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut, but the vast majority of filming took place on the Warner Bros. lot, specifically on Midwest Business Street. The Anywhere, U.S.A.-themed cityscape appeared regularly throughout the show’s seven-season run and also masked as Hazzard County on The Dukes of Hazzard; Rosewood, Pennsylvania on Pretty Little Liars; Charlottesville, Virginia on The Waltons; and River City, Iowa in The Music Man. In the northwest corner of the small town set sits one of Gilmore Girls’ most iconic locations - Luke’s Diner, the restaurant owned by Luke Danes (Scott Patterson), where Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel) regularly hung out. The set boasts a working interior that can be utilized for filming, as was the case on GG. The structure, which also masked as Mitch’s Fish Market on Sisters and Apple Rose Grille on Pretty Little Liars, will be reprising its role as Luke’s Diner (no cell phones!) on Netflix’s highly-anticipated upcoming Gilmore Girls revival.
“Show me that smile again...” In the northwest corner of the Midwest Residential Street section of the backlot sits the two-story turreted residence that belonged to the Seaver family on the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains, which aired from 1985 through 1992. It was in front of the home that the family posed – and then famously ditched dad, Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke) - during the opening credits of each week’s episode. The various properties on Midwest Residential Street are constructed in such a way that each of their sides can be used to mask as different properties, depending on which direction the camera is facing. The northern edge of the Seaver pad was featured as the apartment where Lane Kim (Keiko Agena) lived during Season 4 of Gilmore Girls. The structure has also appeared in Pretty Little Liars, Gremlins, The Monster Squad and Hart of Dixie.
Situated in the eastern portion of the lot is a lush, foliage-covered set known as the Jungle. At the center of the massive outdoor set sits a large 130x95-foot basin that can be filled with 250,000 gallons of water and dressed to resemble a lagoon, lake or swamp. Hundreds of species of trees dot the landscape surrounding the basin, as do several wooden structures, making it one of the most versatile spots on the backlot. The Jungle was originally constructed in 1956 for the filming of Santiago in which it portrayed Cuba. The cinematic stalwart has since gone on to mask as everything from rural Missouri in Million Dollar Baby to war-torn Vietnam on China Beach and 1870s Japan in The Last Samurai. The lagoon was even transformed into a flooded Chicago city culvert for the Season 2 episode of ER titled “Hell and High Water” in which Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) famously rescued a drowning boy.
Positioned on the northern bank of the lagoon is a large ramshackle wooden structure that was originally built for the television series Invasion. The set piece is best known, though, for its role as Merlotte’s Bar and Grill, the watering hole owned by Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell) on the hit HBO series True Blood. The same structure also appeared as the Rammer Jammer restaurant on Hart of Dixie and the Lost Woods Resort on Pretty Little Liars.