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The best studio tour in Los Angeles that I didn’t even know existed


On a recent visit to Los Angeles, I did many of the things that tourists visiting LA do. I did the theme parks and the studio tours.


I’ve done them before, but am always keen to experience them more than once - plus I was in the city with someone who was visiting for the first time so wanted them to experience some of that Hollywood magic.


I counted that I’ve probably done the Warner Brothers tour four times now. But - and this could just be me - I wasn’t really aware that across town there was a tour offered at Paramount Studios.


Like Warner Brothers, this tour isn’t a ride. It’s a tour for lovers of film and television.


For some reason, I’d never heard anyone talk about the Paramount tour. And, after experiencing it I can’t understand why that is as I think it’s probably the best tour available in LA.


A big part of what makes a tour good or bad is the tour guide. My friend Vanessa and I were lucky enough to be assigned a tour guide named Rocco.

Tour guide, Rocco Polanco


From the beginning, it was obvious that Rocco wasn't just turning up to clock in some hours as a part time job. He was passionate about the tour and the historic story it tells.


I am a big fan of Top Gun (who isn’t?), so our guide made sure any location on the lot that related to the film was pointed out.


And, it was on an old wooden patio that doubled as the location for almost all of Top Gun’s moost romantic moments - the porch of Charlie’s beach house that I pulled Rocco aside and asked him about the tour and what makes it different to others in Los Angeles.


“Being Hollywood's first movie studio, there is a rich amount of information regarding how we got the movie-making ball rolling. To me, one of the most interesting facts is that, back in the 1920s, Paramount Pictures was producing up to 120 movies per YEAR - which is very contradictory to our 6- or 7 worldwide releases nowadays,” Rocco Polanco said.

The not so flash patio from Top Gun


“The population of Los Angeles rose 400% because so many Americans were intrigued by the newly established entertainment industry. With that, we are the only major studio with an unbeatable view of the Hollywood sign, which just so happens to be the second most famous sign in the world!


The first of which being the McDonald's golden arches (in case you were wondering),” Rocco throws in like many of the other interesting facts that come up during the tour.


Rocco’s role as a tour guide is just part of a wider career development program offered by Paramount, widely known as the Page Program.


Paramount pages enroll in a two-year program, with giving tours part of the first step.

Yes, it's real!


“The intention of the program is to work your way into a full-time position with the studio, with fill-in opportunities coming up frequently. Some assistants or coordinators call in sick or go on vacation that sort of thing, so they refer to the pages to cover for them during their absence,” Rocco said.


“All the pages are trained to start at square one: tours.”


None of the Pages are given scripts for the tours, and Rocco says that leads to a real variety of tours offered by different guides.


“No two Pages will ever give the same tour. Each Page tailors their tour to the specific interests of their seven-person group. After a while, you start to get good at reading guests' reactions, and your tour starts to form from there.


“Certain groups appreciate more historical elements of the tour, other groups gel with contemporary stories and facts, while some groups solely want to hear about the processes and procedures that go into everyday filmmaking," he said.

Paramount tours are like a box of chocolates...


“I believe the coolest part of the job is that no day is the same. Every tour leads to new discussions, new stories, and new experiences for the guests and Pages alike.”


“With a maximum of seven guests, the tour has an intimate feel which allows guests to feel comfortable asking questions and initiating discussions.”


So, which parts of the tour are the most popular?


“Guests really enjoy our New York Backlot, a 7-acre New York City replica set with metropolitan facades from various burrows across Manhattan. Other guests love our B-Tank, a 950,000-gallon tank for scenes that require any massive body of water.”


The list of productions that were shot on the lot and are popular with tour guests reads like a Wikipedia entry for Oscar and Emmy winners.

The gates as depicted in Netflix series, 'Hollywood'


“Major titles that tend to excite on tour are Top Gun, Glee, Sunset Boulevard, Rear Window, The Ten Commandments, Star Trek, I Love Lucy, Mission Impossible, Forrest Gump, Titanic, Cheers, Taxi, Family Ties, Wayne's World, The Addams Family, Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, and (everyone's favorite) The Godfather. All of these titles have shot inside many of our sound stages and/or around various locations on the studio lot.”


Rocco’s favourite part of the tour is one of those that's more about the workings of the industry.


“I would have to choose Production Park. Production Park is a small common area, located just behind the world-renowned Bronson Gate, where Paramount developed a streamlined system for mass-producing movies in the 1910s.

Some of the most iconic scenes and shows were filmed here


“Influenced by Henry Ford's model of the assembly line, the studio divided three major buildings into a factory-like production line. Writers and directors would start the creative process in the first building, producers would figure out the logistics in the second building, and casting would assign actors their roles in the third building.


As for which celebrities have been spotted onsite?


“We see celebrities very often here on the lot. They're all very nice, and very busy, people. Some of my sightings include Michael B Jordan, Tom Holland, Seth Rogen, Jeff Goldblum (today), Megan Thee Stallion, Tom Cruise, and (my favourite) Miles Teller. For those wondering, Miles Teller is a lime-flavored, bubbly kind of guy. From what I've seen, it's his go-to in the commissary,” Rocco said.


Tours are available throughout the day via the Paramount Studio Tours website. Let them know we sent you!

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Written by: Dan Lake
Published: 9 February 2024

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