Universal Studios re-opens fire-damaged backlot

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The Independent Online

Universal Studios proudly unveiled a rebuilt New York street backlot Thursday, two years after a fire destroyed the facility, used in countless films and television programs.

Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg - who helped design the new sets which consist of 13 city blocks - was on hand as studio officials opened the backlot at a ceremony for VIPS.

"This is a proud day for Universal Studios," Universal president and chief operating officer Ron Meyer said. "The opening of New York Street shows the company's commitment to film and television production in Los Angeles, and to supporting filmmakers worldwide."

Aside from the rebuilt New York street, new sets include a contemporary New York City block with modern glass and steel architecture as well as mocked up streets of Paris and London.

Spielberg said a backlot can be used to portray "not just New York but London and anywhere else your imagination takes you, because a backlot can be anything an art department and a director and a writer put in our imaginations."

"This backlot is a fertile basis for everyone's use, everyone's imagination, and I think this will be around forever, especially with a new improved fire system that has been installed here, which has been fantastic," he added.

According to the studio, the overall design concept concentrated on detail work that would cater to modern filmmaking needs.

The new facility has also been crafted with painstaking attention to detail: manhole covers can emit special effects steam; while the London square has chimneys rigged to belch special effects smoke.

The new sets will be open to tourists as part of the popular studio sightseeing tour.

Meanwhile, a new King Kong, 360-3D attraction created by Oscar-winning director Peter Jackson will open this summer, replacing the old attraction that also burned in the fire.