Universal Studios' backlot reopens after 2008 fire

View of the Universal Studios newly rebuilt New York Street backlot locations, in Los Angeles on May 27, 2010.
View of the Universal Studios newly rebuilt New York Street backlot locations, in Los Angeles on May 27, 2010.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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Universal Studios unveiled what executives described as the largest set-construction undertaking in Hollywood's history with a $200 million price tag and a new 3D King Kong attraction slated to open this summer.

Director Steven Spielberg was a part of the creative team that designed the backlot along with "Avatar" production designer Rick Carter. The $200 million project features 13 city blocks of filming opportunities that include a London-inspired area and a Paris Square.

“This really is the last historically accurate lot in terms of variety and you can go on a tour here and really appreciate it that way,” Spielberg said. “We need these big urban centers to make our movies on, because often it's too expensive to bring the cast and crew to the real, authentic places.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that the resurrection of the backlot and the studio's newest 360-3D King Kong Experience, slated to open this summer, would create more tourism opportunities for the state.

“This studio, which is one of the most significant studios in the United States, or anywhere in the world for that matter, this is a job creator,” Villaraigosa said. “With the upgrades that they did, they're going to be able to film New York, London. They won't even have to go to those cities, which is great. They'll stay here."

Villaraigosa hopes that the reopening of the set will create thousands of industry jobs. With legislation set to pump $500 million in tax credits for filmmaking in 2011, the entertainment industry is set to take a central role in the state and Los Angeles economy.

City officials said that 500 workers were employed daily during the height of construction.

Studio executives presented the local firefighting departments with a check for $100,000 that they will receive over the span of five years as gratitude for containing the 2008 studio fire.

“New York Street was a staple,” Spieldberg said. “And, when this burned down, it wasn't the back lot anymore as filmmakers knew it.”