World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Backlot

Article Id: WHEBN0000864333
Reproduction Date:

Title: Backlot  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Movie ranch, Kaufman Astoria Studios, James Dean (film), Film studio, RKO Pictures
Collection: Backlot Sets, Film Location Shooting, Film Production
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Backlot

War of the Worlds set on a backlot at Universal Studios Hollywood
A tour at a backlot of Universal Studios in California

A backlot is an area behind or adjoining a movie studio, containing permanent exterior buildings for outdoor scenes in filmmaking or television productions, or space for temporary set construction.

Some movie studios build a wide variety of sets on the backlot, which can be modified for different purposes as need requires and "dressed" to resemble any time period or look. These sets include everything from mountains, forests, ships, to small-town settings from around the world, as well as streets from the Old West, to whole modern-day city blocks from New York City, Paris, Berlin and London. There are streets that comprise an assortment of architectural styles, Victorian to suburban homes, and 19th century-style townhouses that encircle a central park with trees. An example of this is "Forty Acres" in Culver City, California or, in the case of Universal Studios, the home of Norman Bates from the Hitchcock movie Psycho.

The shells, or façades, on a studio backlot are usually constructed with three sides and a roof, often missing the back wall and/or one of the side walls. The interior is an unfinished space, with no rooms, and from the back of the structure one can see the electrical wires, pipes, beams and scaffolding, which are fully exposed. Ladders are usually built into the structure, allowing performers to climb to an upper-floor window or the roof to do scenes. Not all the buildings and houses are shells, however. Some are closed in with a fourth wall. When not otherwise in use, they double as storage facilities for lighting and other production equipment. When in use, the structures are dressed by adding doors, window treatments and landscaping. L-shaped temporary walls are placed inside of doors to give the illusion of an interior. When not in use, however, the structures are usually stripped of this dressing.

Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles offers a rare look into the Warner Bros. backlot, with scenes spilling off the Laramie Street set into various stages and eventually out of Gate 3 onto Olive Blvd. in Burbank, California. Television shows such as Moonlighting and It's Garry Shandling's Show also broke the fourth wall and gave audiences a peek of life on the other side of the camera.

All the sets on a studio backlot are built so that what looks large or as if it covers miles of ground on the big or small screen in reality only takes up a few acres of the backlot.

In their heyday, some backlots covered hundreds of acres around existing studios and filmmakers rarely left the lot, as they would intercut the backlot shots with a handful of establishing shots filmed on location by a second unit. Today many studio backlots are gone or nearly gone. Los Angeles, like the rest of the United States, went through an economic boom after World War II, which caused real estate prices and property taxes linked to fair market value to rise (the latter problem for the studios would be curtailed only by the enactment of Proposition 13 in 1978). At the same time, during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s (the period when Hollywood underwent the transition from the Golden Age to New Hollywood), audiences were becoming increasingly fed up with films that were supposed to be set all over the world but which were obviously filmed in California. The primitive special effects technology of the era made it difficult to remove important clues such as chaparral-covered hills at the horizon line. Audiences wanted to see their favorite stars hamming it up in locations which were both exotic and authentic, as opposed to tacky Hollywood copies. Thus, by the early 1970s, the industry had shifted to location shooting for the majority of outdoor scenes. Backlots were widely viewed as an obsolete, unwanted capital expenditure and a tax burden on studio budgets. Many were torn down and the land was either sold to developers or repurposed for theme parks or office buildings.

Though some studios like MGM and Fox sold vast tracts in the '60s and '70s, many historical sets continue to be razed even now as there seems to be little interest in their preservation. Most recently, the western town set of Warner Bros., used in TV shows Bonanza, The Waltons and films like Wild Wild West, was razed and repurposed into office space.

See also

External links

  • "40 Acres" The Lost Backlot Studio of Movie & Television Fame
  • "Columbia Ranch.net" A website about the former Columbia Studios Ranch in Burbank CA
  • Backlot space at Pinewood & Shepperton Studios
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.