The first Hollywood Studio tour I ever did was the Sony Pictures Studios Tour. This studio is located in Culver City, quite a drive from our Hollywood motel. In fact, we were stuck in traffic and arrived late. The tours seemed to operate pretty often so I was hoping they could just put us on the next group.
We arrived at the Sony Pictures Plaza where the tours started from. The agent at the desk informed us we could actually join our original group, as they were watching a short video that was included in the tour. We were ok with missing the video as our schedule was pretty jam packed. We met our guide and the group as they came out of the video. The group size itself was a bit larger than WB and Paramount, about 12-15 people. Unlike the other tours which use carts, this tour is all walking, so make sure you wear good shoes.
Update: The Sony Pictures Tours recently opened a new museum and lobby off Overland Ave. This is now where tours meet and depart from.
The tour began with walking from the Sony offices Lobby across the street into the studios themselves. You pass under the Sony archway and the first thing you see is a giant rainbow. This was erected to honour the filming of The Wizard of Oz. The guide spoke about some of the history of the site, as many classic films were produced here.
As we entered the lot, we stopped at the original offices of MGM Studios, the original owners of the lot. The building currently still has the Columbia Pictures sign on it. You may recognize the building as the façade has been used numerous times over the years, including the school setting on The Goldbergs. We were able to go into the lobby where Sony has many of it’s Oscar awards on display.
The studio has a few vehicles on display from various productions. They have a car from Talladega Nights and the RV from Breaking Bad. The highlight for me was Ecto-1, from my all-time favourite movie, Ghostbusters. It has been restored and you can get up close to it, with no barrier. They ask you not to open the doors, but you can touch the car and peek right in the windows. It’s a really thrilling experience for any fan.
The Scoring Studio
We walked by some soundstages and entered the Barbra Streisand Scoring Studio. This large studio was created in the 1930s and hasn’t been altered since. Almost any iconic movie score that you can think of has been recorded in this room, from The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, to ET and La La Land. Our guide told us that iconic composer John Williams will only record in this studio.
Most studio tours promise to take you into one set, although there is never a guarantee as to which set it will be. On this tour, one set that is virtually guaranteed is either Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. On our tour, we visited the Jeopardy set. When you enter, there are some displays, including a Jeopardy podium that you can take your picture with. Then you get to enter the studio and see the set itself. They did allow us to take photos which was nice. Usually photos aren’t permitted inside sets. The set here is not lit up, so it doesn’t look as impressive as it does on TV, however it gives you a great idea of the space and layout.
The Soundstage visit
After this, we were able to go into the set of another show, The Goldbergs. We went in to the set of the basement and got to look around. We weren’t able to take photos unfortunately, but I loved the set, as it takes place in the 80s. It was filled with classic toys, furniture, and even an old VCR. I love seeing the basement on the show now as I have been inside that set! It adds a whole new aspect when you watch the show.
On our way out, we actually got to see Troy Gentile, who plays Barry Goldberg. He was rehearsing a dance choreography that was going to be featured on an episode. We didn’t get the chance to talk to him as he was busy, but that definitely counts as a celebrity sighting!
Once we returned to the Sony Building, we were able to wander through the lobby, as they have some props on display. These include a Ghostbusters proton pack, some props from The Da Vinci Code, and Andrew Garfield’s skateboard from the Amazing Spiderman.
Overall the Sony Pictures Studios tour was pretty good. It lacks in certain departments (such as backlots) but it makes up for it in other areas, like the cars on display, and the historic scoring studio. If you decide to do this tour, remember to wear comfortable shoes as it is a walking tour. Also, it seemed to be the tour that had the least amount of opportunities for photos, so if you are a photographer, you may want to consider one of the other tours.
Since my visit to the Sony tour, they have modified it somewhat. The tours now leave from a separate location and have a small museum, including a recreation of the Seinfeld set. I haven’t had a chance to visit since these changes, but I hope to soon.
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