If you have taken the Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour I believe that you will be disappointed by the Sony Studio Tour Los Angeles like I was. The Sony lot is extremely small compared to Warner Bros., and there is very little to see. Getting there was an interesting challenge for my friend and me as the address they give you for the parking lot is not actually where the parking lot is. I hope this honest review will help you decide if this tour is right for you.
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If you are like me and love the history of movies and television then you most likely want to visit as many studios are possible. Even an underwhelming experience on a movie lot can still be pretty decent just to be able to say you’ve been there and had the chance to see it with your own eyes.
While the tour itself left a lot to be desired for me it was still very special to me to get to walk around on what was on the MGM lot. Inside the Wheel of Fortune stage, you’ll be told that it was where scenes from the Wizard of Oz were filmed but other than the gigantic rainbow on the lot there’s little to see of that historic production. There is an interesting-looking book about the making of The Wizard of Oz on Amazon.
The website and the people reserving your tour on the phone will say that you will park on Washington Blvd, but the parking lot is actually under the Sony Pictures building off of Madison. The only option for parking is to valet. Be prepared to have some ones on you for a tip. Once you leave your car and head to the elevators you will get off at the lobby where you will see the glass room where you check-in for tours. *Please note that I took the tour in 2013 so parking could have changed.
If you have a large bag or purse you will have to check it in so I would encourage you to bring a small bag or leave it in your car. When you check in you will receive a Sony tour card to hang around your neck which is a nice souvenir. You will also get to take a picture in front of a green screen which will be given to you for free at the end of the tour and the green screen will be replaced with the set from Wheel of Fortune.
After everyone in the tour group has taken a picture you will be taken to a screening room to watch a film on the history of the studio. At the end of this, we saw a preview for a new Bradley Cooper movie called Aloha which my friend and I later decided was the most exciting part of the tour.
Unlike the Warner Bros. tour, your Sony guide will not ask what shows or movies you like that Sony has done as there is not much that they are able to show you. I did not get the feeling that every tour is different. We walked across the street and onto the Sony lot. We were brought to the Columbia Pictures building which had a different name on the front for the day since it was being used for a scene in Ray Donovan.
You will be taken inside the lobby where all the Oscars are held for the movies that have won the studio the Best Picture award. The Oscars are in shadowbox displays with the movie posters behind them which looks really nice. You are not allowed to take pictures inside that room though which is unfortunate. Right outside the building is a gigantic rainbow and our tour guide explained that Culver City asks that companies building in the city give back by creating public pieces of art. The rainbow pays tribute to the Wizard of Oz and serves as a public piece of art since is large enough to easily be seen from off the lot.
Next, we walked through the studio’s main street which was also being used for Ray Donovan. They stopped filming long enough that we could walk through and I was excited because I had worked on Ray Donovan a few weeks ago so I was happy to see Liev Schreiber again. This is one positive to the Sony tour compared to Warner Bros. is that my friend and I did see actors on the lot. Of course, some people do see stars on the WB tour, it is all about luck.
If you read reviews of the tour elsewhere online you will see that this is quite common for Sony tours so if you want to see a celebrity your odds will be better at Sony but of course, this cannot be guaranteed. At the end of the main street, we were taken to a spot where they keep some of the cars used in movies. Currently, they have the RV from Breaking Bad, the car from Ghostbusters, a car from Talladega Nights, and a golf cart from 22 Jump Street. You are able to take as many pictures as you want of them but you cannot get inside them.
After looking at the vehicles we were taken into an area where we were not allowed to take pictures. We went inside a soundstage that has been at Sony for a very long time. It is the studio where Judy Garland recorded Somewhere Over the Rainbow and where orchestras are brought in to provide the music for movies. The room looks very plain and old which our guide said is due to the fact that the room is well known for being wonderful to record in and they are afraid if they change anything it will ruin the sound.
There were some fun things to see inside the room like framed Hawaiian shirts that belong to John Lasseter who you may know for his Pixar movies. Since the music for Pixar movies is always recorded in the studio John sends them a Hawaiian shirt that he wore during production and most of the time the shirt he wears to premieres. Another fun thing we saw in the room was a bicycle hanging from the roof. The story is that a man kept showing up late for work with the excuse that he could not find his bicycle. Finally, his coworkers hung it from the roof so he would always know where it was.
From there we were taken to a building where young stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney went to school but we did not get to go inside. Next, we went outside of the Happy Madison offices where Adam Sandler does work for his production company. We also got to see his incredibly nice customized golf carts. From there we went inside a soundstage and walked around the house used on The Goldbergs, we were not able to take pictures since it is still a working set on air but it was cool to see.
We went inside the soundstage that they use for Wheel of Fortune and saw their hallways which are loaded with pictures of the show throughout the years. I had no idea when I took this four years ago that I would later go on to be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune which you can read about here. You are able to take pictures in the hallway if you want but not inside the set. I honestly do not know why we were in there since everything was covered up on the set so we sat in the studio audience section and saw nothing.
After we left the Wheel of Fortune set we headed over to check out the set of another popular game show Jeopardy! For Jeopardy! they have three podiums set up for you to take pictures which I really enjoyed. I picked the podium in the middle to get my picture with because it had the highest amount of money so I stood behind it holding the buzzer. The hallways at Jeopardy! were impressive since it had all the Emmys that the show has won over the years. It was interesting to see how Alex Trebek has aged over the years.
We went and sat in the studio audience which was nice because nothing was covered up though we still could not take pictures of that part. Our guide went on to talk about how difficult it is to make it on Jeopardy! He said that only about sixteen percent of people who take the required quiz to be considered for the show will pass it. I have already searched for the quiz because the competitive side of me really wants to see if I can pass it. For now, the quiz is not open since they are not currently seeking participants but if I pass it I’ll be sure to let you know.
Our guide may have said a few things after that but there was nothing else we saw that is worth mentioning. We did have two wheelchairs on our tour and from watching them I want to warn you that it is very difficult to push a wheelchair through the lot. You will get a chance, of course, to stop inside their gift shop which has decent options for merchandise from Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Breaking Bad.
I have also taken the Paramount Studio Tour and Warner Bros Studio Tour if you would like to read about my experience.