(Recasts with fire largely under control)
By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES, June 1 A fire roared through part of
Universal Studios film and TV studio on Sunday, damaging
well-known movie sets and a popular "King Kong" attraction before
being brought largely under control after 12 hours, fire officials
Universal, one of the world's six major film studios, had to
close its popular theme park for the day because of the fire but
it did not interfere with Sunday's taping of the popular MTV Movie
Awards at the adjacent Gibson Amphitheater.
About 500 firefighters from several Los Angeles-area fire
departments battled the blaze, which caused no fatalities but
injured nine firefighters and a deputy sheriff, said Los Angeles
County Fire Inspector Ron Haralson.
By late afternoon he said the backlot fire was contained to a
single structure -- the "King Kong" exhibit -- as firefighters
used bulldozers to move burning videotapes and other flaming
The blaze destroyed about five structures within a faux New
York set used in various movies and television shows, including
one sound stage. Also damaged was the "King Kong" attraction, an
alley from "The Sting" and a set from "Back to the Future."
Sunday's fire burned some of the same back-lot areas
destroyed by a blaze in 1990, which whipped through the New
York Street and a set used for "Ben Hur." It took years to
rebuild at an estimated cost of $50 million.
Universal is operated by NBC Universal Inc., which is 80
percent owned by General Electric Co and 20 percent by French
communications and utility company Vivendi.
Universal said it would resume its normal business hours
Monday at 10 a.m., when all rides and attractions, including the
studio tour, would be operating.
The fire caused traffic jams for miles in all directions to
the studio, where a building housing a video vault had been badly
damaged and the vault itself was "compromised."
A Universal spokeswoman said about 40,000 to 50,000 videos
had been damaged but the studios either had copies of those
films or could easily copy them.
The contents of a second vault holding master copies of
older and classic movies were salvaged.
"Nothing irreplaceable was lost," said Ron Meyer,
Universal Studios' president and chief operating officer.
The studio said the full damage had not yet been assessed.
Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Darryl Jacobs said the blaze
was first reported about 4:45 a.m. The cause was not immediately
Firefighters encountered explosions from propane tanks and
called in helicopters at one point to drop water.
Universal Studios is bounded by the city of Los Angeles and
communities like Burbank. It is home to the Universal Pictures
movie lot and Universal Studios Hollywood theme park.
Several acres on the 230-acre (93-hectare) back-lot area,
where films and TV shows are produced, were burned but the theme
park was largely unaffected.
Universal Studios Hollywood houses attractions such as
"Revenge of the Mummy - The Ride" and "Shrek 4-D." Its
"CityWalk" mall has 65 restaurants, nightclubs and shops.
Universal Pictures, with a history dating to 1909, has been a
major producer of hit films, and tapped a young Steven Spielberg
to make 1975's "Jaws." The director still houses his production
company, Amblin Entertainment, on the lot.
Other hit Universal titles have included the "Back to the
Future" and "Jurassic Park" movies.
(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte, editing by Eric
Walsh and Bill Trott)