Seeing Stars: The Movie Studios

4000 Warner Boulevard,
Burbank, CA. / (818) 954 1744 or (818) 954-1008

Warner Brothers, one of Hollywood's most famous studios, was founded in 1923 by four actual brothers: Jack, Sam, Harry & Albert Warner. The siblings never seemed to get along with each other, but Warner Bros. Studios managed to produce some of the most memorable movies in the history of Hollywood, including the world's first "talkie" with Al Jolson, "The Jazz Singer" (1927), "The Adventures Robin Hood" (1938), "Casablanca" (1942), "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (1942), "Cool Hand Luke" (1967), "Deliverance" (1972), "The Exorcist" (1973), "Chariots of Fire" (1981), "Body Heat" (1981), and the current string of "Batman" films.

The first Warner Bros. studio (where they made "The Jazz Singer") was located in Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard, in what is now KTLA Television studios. In 1928, with the success of that famousAl Jolson talkie, Warners moved to this 110-acre Burbank lot, in the east San Fernando Valley, and it has been their home now for 70 years.

(For more information about the studio's early days, see the separate page on KTLA Studios. Click here to see historic photos of the studios.)


The early stars at Warner Bros. included Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, James Cagney, Errol Flynn, John Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Dick Powell, George Raft, Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Crawford, Burt Lancaster, Paul Muni, Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Dennis Morgan, Peter Lorre, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda, Doris Day,and Rin Tin Tin. Future President Ronald Reagan made his screen debut at Warners, in 1937's "Love in the Air," and he married another Warner's star, actress Jane Wyman.

Where M-G-M went in for bright, colorful musicals, Warner Bros. preferred black & white, and gritty, realistic dramas. The studio put out numerous top notch gangster films, such as "Little Caesar" (with Edward G. Robinson, 1930), "The Public Enemy" (with James Cagney, 1921), "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" (1932), as well as Humphrey Bogart insuch classic film noir as "The Maltese Falcon" (1941), "The Big Sleep" (1946) and of course the unforgettable "Casablanca" (1941). They also gave us such Oscar winning dramas as "The Story of Louis Pasteur" (1936), "The Life of Emile Zola" (1937), and "The Treasure of Sierra Madre" (1948).

When Warner Bros. did give the public musicals, they were usually black and white (such as "42nd Street" and Busby Berkley's "Gold Diggers" films), and were often a bit more cynical than those M-G-M Technicolor spectaculars. It wasn't until the late 1950's that Warner Bros. finally favored full color, big time musicals, and then the studio went all out, creating classics such as "Damn Yankees" (1958), "The Music Man" (1962), "Camelot" (1967), and "My Fair Lady" (1964).

In later years, Warner Bros. brought us Marlon Brando in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951), James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955), Judy Garland in "A Star is Born" (1954), Paul Newman in "Hud" (1963), Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?" (1966), Warren Beatty in "Bonnie & Clyde" (1967), Clint Eastwood in "Dirty Harry" (1971), Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman in "All the President's Men" (1976), and Goldie Hawn in "Private Benjamin" (1980). In 1978, when Warner Bros' made the original "Superman" movie (with Christopher Reeve), it held the world record as the most expensive movie ever made in the history of Hollywood.

In 2001, the studio broke all records with the opening of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," based on the popular book about a boy wizard, and in 2011 released the final "Potter" film ("Deathly Hallows, part 2"). With a $967 million take, "Sorcerer's Stone" turned out to be the second highest-grossing movie of all time, behind only "Titanic", and the Potter series has become the biggest movie franchise of all time, with each episode making close to a billion dollars. At the same time, the studio hit with another hit franchise, with the hugely successful "Lord of the Rings" trilogy (from its New Line division).

Other recent Warner Bros. releases have included: "Argo" (winner of the "Best Picture" Oscar in 2013), "The Hobbit", "Man of Steel", "Jack the Giant Slayer", "Beautiful Creatures", "Inception", "The Dark Knight" trilogy, "The Town", "The Blind Side", "Valentine's Day", "Sherlock Holmes", "The Hangover", "Yes Man", "Slumdog Millionaire","Hairspray", "I Am Legend," "Sweeney Todd," "300," "The Departed," "Nancy Drew," "Oceans 13," "License to Wed," "Batman Begins," "Superman Returns," "Corpse Bride," "Rent,"  "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Million Dollar Baby," "The Last Samurai," "Anger Management," "Scooby Doo", "Austin Powers in Goldmember", "Mystic River," "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," "Rush Hour 2," "Blade II," "The Time Machine," "A Walk To Remember," "A.I.",  "The Matrix," "The Green Mile," "Eyes Wide Shut,"  "The Bridges of Madison County," "Outbreak," "Interview With The Vampire," "You've Got Mail," "Practical Magic," "Lethal Weapon 4,"  "L.A. Confidential," "Contact," "Devil's Advocate," "Mars Attacks,"  "A Time To Kill," "Tin Cup," "Twister," "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls," "Heat," "Free Willy II," "The Client," "Natural Born Killers," "The Fugitive," "Dennis the Menace," "The Pelican Brief," and "Unforgiven" - adding big names such as Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sandra Bullock, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Kim Basinger, Keanu Reeves, George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Michael Douglas, Tom Hanks, Nicolas Cage, Jodie Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Pacino, Wesley Snipes, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, Demi Moore, Steven Seagal, Warren Beatty, Robert Duvall, Sharon Stone, Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts to the Warner Bros roster.

The studio has prospered in television as well. In fact, two of Warner Bros' recent releases, "Maverick" (with Mel Gibson) and "Wyatt Earp" (with Kevin Costner), harken back to the studio's early days in TV. In 1993, Warner Bros. ranked as the largest supplier of TV programs in Hollywood, producing hit sitcoms such as "Murphy Brown" and "Full House," as well action programs such as "Lois & Clark: the New Adventures of Superman."

For a number of years, Warners shared their Burbank Studios with Columbia Pictures. But Columbia (now part of Sony Pictures) has now moved out of Burbank, and into the old M-G-M Studios in Culver City, leaving Warner Bros. as sole owner of the Burbank lot.

Fortunately for the public, Warner Bros. is one of the major motion picture studios that offers a guided tour of their studios, including their venerable back lot. The catch is that their "VIP Tour" will set you back a hefty $49. (See the separate page about the Warners tour.)

One way to get inside part of the historic Warner Bros Studios, however, without forking over hard cash, is simply to attend a free taping of a TV sitcom at the studio. Shows taping live recently at Warner Bros. include "The Big Bang Theory," "Two and a Half Men," "Two Broke Girls" and "Mike & Molly".  Previously,  "Everybody Loves Raymond," "Friends" and "The Drew Carrey Show" were taped there.

These shows require live studio audiences, and if you get tickets, you are admitted into the studio as part of that audience. Just phone "Audiences Unlimited" at (818) 506-0067 and ask them what shows are currently being taped on the Warner Bros. lot. (Some shows taped at the studio, such as "Pretty Little Liars" and "The Mentalist", do not have a live studio audience, so you can't get tickets.)

By the way, don't be surprised if your kids recognize the Warner Bros' water tower. In the Steven Spielberg cartoon series "Animaniacs," that's where the Warner brothers - and the Warner sister - live! (Ask your kids to explain...)

In January of 2000, Warner Bros. was purchased by America Online (AOL), in what was the largest merger in history. AOL bought Time Warner Inc., which also owns CNN and HBO cable services, and publishes Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and Fortune magazines. AOL already owned Netscape, Compuserve, and Moviefone. The cost of the deal? 163 billion dollars.

 Getting there: The studio is located at the intersection Olive Avenue, Pass Avenue, and Barham Boulevard, in Burbank (in the San Fernando Valley), just a few blocks southeast of NBC Studios and Disney Studios, and northeast of Universal Studios. / From Universal Studios, take Lankershim Boulevard half a mile north to Riverside Drive. Turn right (east), and take Riverside Drive east (about a mile and a half) to Hollywood Way. Turn right again (south), and take Hollywood Way to the studio gate. / From the Ventura (134) Freeway east, exit on the Pass Avenue offramp. Turn right on Pass Avenue and follow it southeast for about half a mile, to where it intersects with Olive Street next to the studio. Look for the giant movie posters - you can't miss it.

[To learn more about this subject, you can access Warner Bros' official website at:]

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