Movies

Restored Universal Studios back in business

MUMBAI: A treasured landmark movie setting was unveiled last Thursday, with a champagne-popping comeback seen only in Hollywood.

Courthouse Square sprang to life on the restored Universal Studios Hollywood backlot with characters previously filmed on the hometown setting, from the wild-haired Doc Brown in Back to the Future to the jiggly Professor Sherman Klump in The Nutty Professor.


Those Tinseltown characters and others streamed out of a rehabilitated three-story brick courthouse on cue, followed by the USC Marching Band playing 76 Trombones. They greeted a tram filled with the first visitors to see the area blackened last year in a four-acre fire.


"We think our guests will get an experience that far exceeds any experience they‘ve ever had," said Larry Kurzweil, president of Universal Studios Hollywood. "This is the beginning of a let-it-roll."


Seen in more than 1,000 productions dating to the 1940s, Courthouse Square was among other movie facades on the 400-acre lot demolished in a fast-moving blaze on June 1, 2008.


It was once known as Mockingbird Square for its appearance in key scenes of To Kill a Mockingbird. It also provided the backdrop for River City, Iowa, the venue for the toe-tapping musical The Music Man and as Sweet Apple, Ohio, in Bye Bye Birdie.


Surrounding the courthouse are facades for an antique shop, bakery, video and music stores, police and fire stations and a gas pump. A veranda stands nearby on a grassy, shrub-lined park.


Today, the clock tower that once adorned the courthouse in "Back to the Future" is gone, because the setting is now home to the TV drama Ghost Whisperer. Still, it wouldn‘t be Hollywood without a little nip and tuck done before the high-profile unveiling.


Universal officials also introduced a new tram system on Thursday, loaded with high-definition TV monitors and surround sound.


The high-tech system shows movie clips to thrill-seekers as tram riders tour backstage lots. It also offers commentary from legendary moviemakers who filmed at the studio, from Steven Spielberg, who directed Jaws on the lot, to Stephen Sommers, writer of The Mummy.

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