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In this hi-tech, fast-paced world, groups are looking for attractive, inclusive and professionally-run venues that offer substance and entertainment value. Universal Studios in Hollywood, California takes center stage in this arena, with a jam-packed 415-acre park situated in the heart of a major film studio.

IMG_2380Stars in the Hollywood area who have homes there include Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Madonna, Tom Cruise, Al Pacino, Christina Aguilera and Sir Elton John, among many others. You could see any of these actors by chance—and others— but if you’re in the area for only a day or two, there’s another place your group can go to mix with the stars: Universal Studios.

Universal Studios can easily handle groups of virtually any size. The park is open mid-morning to 9 or 10 p.m. For groups of 10 or more guests, general admission and front-of-the-line passes (recommended on busy days) are discounted. Large-capacity rides and expansive film stages where presentations are made allow plenty of room for even the largest groups.

IMG_2385Since 1964 when Universal Studios Hollywood opened with one ticket taker, two guides and two tram drivers, the theme park has expanded and now draws hundreds of thousands of visitors—many of them tour groups. One of the first attractions in the park was an exhibition of designs by costume designer Edith Head and a walk through Doris Day’s dressing room. Today the attractions are sophisticated, colorful and engrossing, such as Transformers—The Ride, a motion-based thrill ride that uses photo-realistic 3-D HD media and special effects by Industrial Light & Magic.

Another top attraction at the park is King Kong, an intense 3-D experience with the world’s largest Surround Digital projection system. Wearing 3-D glasses, your group will enter a jungle where a dramatic struggle ensues between a 25-foot-high King Kong and a 35-foot-high dinosaur.

IMG_2423Also on the Studio Tour tram ride, visitors will see pre-visualization technology used in a spectacular chase scene from the film Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, as well as a miniature model of King Kong’s S. S. Venture tramp steamer used in the King Kong film. This large miniature, combined with traditional and digital effects, allows crews to shoot scenes otherwise nearly impossible to film.

On the tram ride you’ll also see a flash flood during a sudden torrential downpour, many of Steven Speilberg’s Jurassic Park original props, and Famous Fast Cars such as the Back to the Future DeLorean, a futuristic Edel and Biff’s Cadillac, and the Blues Brothers Bluesmobile. “Jaws Lake,” in the quiet town of Amity, features an animatronic great white shark similar to the one used in the movie Jaws.

IMG_2413“Earthquake—The Big One” puts guests in the midst of a fully-dressed movie set. In slightly more than two minutes, the earth literally collapses, simulating the devastation of a 8.3 magnitude earthquake. As the pavement collapses above, guests face sparking power cables, felled telephone poles, noxious gases, a crashed 18-wheeler containing highly flammable contents, and a massive 60,000-gallon flood. Everyone escapes injury, and the tram moves on.

The Studio Tour tram also goes through the backlot streets where complete towns used in movie sets are displayed. Courthouse Square, Brownstone Street and an enhanced New York Street are some of the sets you might see on the Studio Tour. There’s also a contemporary cityscape that is the largest modern urban backlot shooting location in Los Angeles. Comedian Jimmy Fallon, star of NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” is the ride’s video tour guide.

IMG_2420Other Universal Studios attractions include the Special Effects Stage where park-goers enjoy a fast-paced look at the world of movie-making and participate in the production each day. Hollywood’s animal actors put on a show for the audience during a daily presentation; these lovable pets include dogs, cats, roosters and birds from shows such as Evan Almighty and Night at the Museum.

At the Terminator 2 experience, your group can see live action stunts combined with digital imaging technology projected on the world’s largest 3-D screen. At the Dreamworks’ Academy Award-winning Shrek presentation in the park, ground-breaking animation and sensory immersion play a big role in the attraction that reunites the comic talents of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow.

IMG_2409At the Water World attraction, “A Live Sea War Spectacular” represents a complex combination of high-tech special effects, pyrotechnics, flame and human stunt work. The attraction puts studio guests in the middle of the action involving hundreds of stunts and fiery special effects. Highlights include giant fireballs rising 50 feet in the air and cascading to earth in a wall of fire, and a seaplane that swoops in above the audience, skidding across the water and coming to an explosive crash landing just inches away from spectators.

The park is divided into two sections, the Upper Lot and Lower Lot, connected by a skyway for easy access. Numerous food venues are available, and many other attractions can be found at Universal Studios.

Private group tours can be arranged. Call 818-622-1550 or contact group.sales@nbcuni.com.

For hotel accommodations close to the park, Loews Hollywood Hotel, 1755 N. Highland Ave. in downtown Hollywood, is only one metro stop away stop from the park. Group package deals are available. Call 855-563-9749 or contact hollywoodreservations@loewshotels.com.

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