I was really looking forward to visiting Paramount Pictures because I’ve known about it since I was a kid. I grew up watching Star Trek the Next Generation and I would always see the Paramount logo at the end of every episode.
We checked in for this tour at the same time as some VIP tour guests, but then were separated into two groups once we passed through security. Our guide seemed quite young so I was a bit skeptical about how much history and info she would present, but she turned out to be really knowledgeable in the history and pop culture of the studios. The group size itself was not large, maybe 8 people. The tours here use a large cart so it cut down on the walking.
The Props Department
The tour started with a visit to the props department. What you see on the tour is really just a museum of older props on display. We didn’t see any sort of working area with props available to productions. However we did get to see some items like some fake gas pumps, a casket with a fake body inside it, and some ship models from the new Star Trek movies (but not the Enterprise).
From there we were driven to an older part of the studio that Lucille Ball had her offices in. Directly across was a small park area with trees that had been used to film many outdoor scenes from the Brady Bunch.
Then we got to explore some of the New York backlot. This area is a bit smaller than the NY streets of Universal and Warner Bros, it is still quite a large backlot. The tour guide stopped the cart and we were able to get out and walk around. We saw the façade from the Cupcake store in Bridesmaids, as well as the NYADA school from Glee. One apartment was featured in the famous Rye Bread episode of Seinfeld.
We were then driven past the studio used for Dr. Phil, where someone was standing in the door and waved to us, but it wasn’t Dr. Phil himself.
We got to see the outside of the studio used for filming NCIS: Los Angeles. Outside the studio is the NCIS headquarters, when the characters are often seen parking their cars.
As we drove past many of the soundstages, we were told about the history and what was filmed in many of them. These studios are quite old so they have a lot of history. Many of the soundstages and buildings have been designed to look like alleyways, motels, and other buildings so they can be used for filming.
Our tour returned to the starting point, but this wasn’t the end of the tour. We were then walked towards the Paramount Theatre. We passed the bench used in Forrest Gump, which is on display just outside the theatre. There is some controversy, as the Savannah History Museum also claims to have the Forrest Gump bench in their collection. So who is to say which is the real bench? If you believe the tour guides at Paramount, the one on the lot is the real one.
The Paramount Theatre is a full size movie theatre right on the lot. It has been used for premieres, special screenings, and even used by directors to view footage. There is a stage at the front that is sometimes used for presentations as well. If you go, take a look at the lobby, which can be transformed to stand in as a museum, a hotel, an airport, or almost any other public location you can think of.
After leaving the theatre, we got to stop at the famous Bronson Gate. This was the well recognized original entrance to Paramount, before they expanded the lot. It can no longer be seen from the street, so you need to take a tour to visit the gate. Even the gate has been featured in film, including a famous scene from Sunset Boulevard as Gloria Swanson enters the lot. There is also the original Paramount office building.
Once the tour concludes, we were dropped off at the Paramount Pictures Gift Shop and Cafe. They have a variety of beverages, snacks, and souvenirs that you can pick up. Make sure you stop in, as you will find yourself in another television set. Scenes of the “Lima Bean” coffee shop from Glee were filmed here, so take a look around to see if you recognize it.
Overall the tour was quite good, and well worth the money. Paramount Pictures Studios have a long history which makes for a very fascinating visit. It will be especially enjoyable for those who appreciate the golden age of Hollywood.