Large fire devours movie sets at Universal Studios

By | June 1, 2008

A large fire tore through a back lot at Universal Studios early Sunday, destroying a set from “Back to the Future,” the King Kong exhibit and thousands of videos and reels in a vault.

The blaze broke out on a sound stage at the theme park in a set featuring New York brownstones facades around 4:30 a.m. at the 400-acre property, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Michael Freeman said. The fire was contained to the lot but still burning several hours later.

Roughly 40,000 to 50,000 videos and reels were in the video vault, but there are duplicates stored in a different location, said Ron Meyer, NBC Universal president and chief operating officer. Firefighters managed to recover hundreds of those titles from the vault.

“Nothing is lost forever,” Meyer said.

The videos included every film that Universal has produced and footage from television series including “Miami Vice” and “I Love Lucy.”

The iconic courthouse square from “Back to the Future” was also destroyed, Freeman said, and the famous clock tower that enabled Michael J. Fox’s character to travel through time was damaged.

Two mock New York and New England streets used both for movie-making and as tourist displays were a total loss, said Darryl Jacobs, Los Angeles County fire inspector.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and no initial damage estimates were given.

The park reopened at noon Sunday. On a typical weekend day about 25,000 people visit Universal Studios. – ap

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