Universal Studios Vs Warner Bros. Los Angeles
Ever had the urge to pull back the curtain and peep behind the scenes of Hollywood’s legendary movie industry? Well, now’s your chance. Between them, Warner Bros. and Universal Studios have produced some of the best-loved movies and TV shows of all time. We’re talking nothing less than Jurassic Park, Spartacus, Psycho, Back to the Future, La La Land and many more classics that span the entire history of movie-making. We put these two titans of the silver screen head to head in our expert guide to all things Hollywood.
Universal Studios Vs Warner Bros. Los Angeles: the Lowdown
You’ll recognize Warner Bros. Studios by the iconic water tower emblazoned with the company logo that’s been standing sentinel on the lot since the studios opened here in Burbank way back in the late 1920s. But there’s so much more to this movie-making mecca, with studios and sets that you’ll know and love from films and TV shows as diverse as My Fair Lady, Blade Runner and – for viewers of a certain vintage – 70’s TV favorite The Waltons. Fans of 90s TV juggernaut Friends will also delight at the opportunity to hang out in a painstakingly recreated Central Perk Café.
Hollywood’s Universal Studios over in the San Fernando Valley has been around for even longer. Known as ‘the entertainment capital of LA’, the lot opened in 1915, later adding a theme park, which is what really differentiates it from its Burbank rival. Classics including The Sting, Die Hard 2 and Creature from the Black Lagoon were filmed on the stages here and a tour of the working studio highlights these and other household name productions. But it's the adjacent theme park that's the big draw here, with Harry Potter, Minions and Transformers experiences providing some of the heavy hitters.
Warner Bros. Studios: What to See and Do
The standard tour of the Warner Bros. Studios includes one hour of expert commentary from your guide, after which you’ll likely want to spend another two hours or so exploring the various exhibits at your leisure.
Guided Studio Tour
This is the part where you get to feel the true thrill and excitement of modern movie-making. Film buffs will be in clover as they speed through backlots in golf carts, visiting sets, stages and exterior locations from the likes of The Dark Knight, Gilmore Girls and Friends. There’s also a chance to visit Stage 48 for an immersive ‘script and screen’ experience that explores all aspects of the production process, from screenwriting and storyboarding to set design and special effects, as well as including authentic memorabilia from some of the planet’s best-loved movies and TV shows. You might even spot live recordings taking place (this is a working studio after all), and it’s not unheard of to run into the occasional Hollywood star!
The One with the Perfect Selfie
Friends fanatics will find much to enjoy at Warner Bros. Studios. Snap the perfect selfie on a replica sofa in front of the (actual) fountain from the opening credits and unleash your best Gunther impersonation over coffee in the lovingly recreated Central Perk Café, where you can also choose to dine in Monica’s apartment. Or indeed Chandler and Joey’s if you prefer things a little more laidback. Heck, there’s even a Friends boutique, with exclusive merch and gifts including branded mugs, keyrings and yup, even socks.
Best of the Rest
There’s an opportunity to visit even more real sets, including the likes of The Big Bang Theory, as well as recreating classic movie scenes in front of a green screen. Think flying Harry Potter’s broomstick, or gunning Catwoman’s motorbike through the mean streets of Gotham. Exhibitions that include blockbuster franchises like Harry Potter and the DC superheroes universe cap a quite excellent day out for movie buffs.
Universal Studios: What to See and Do
You won’t want to miss the Universal Studios tour either, though here it’s more of an amuse bouche to the main event: stacks of theme park rides for thrill-seeking film fans.
Guided Studio Tour
There’s a whopping 400 acres of active studio lots to explore at Universal. Hop aboard the tram and take in the famous sets and scenes accompanied by expert narration by none other than Jimmy Fallon. See the sets from Jordan Peele’s 2022 horror epic Nope, come face to face with some of Hollywood’s best-loved creature feature monsters, including King Kong and the shark from Jaws, and hold onto your hats for the high-octane tour finale based on the Fast & Furious film franchise.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Whether you’re Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, where you can visit Hogwarts Castle, visit the Hogsmeade shops and – best of all – experience some of the park’s top rides. Hagrid ushers you on board the Flight of the Hippogriff, which swoops and soars over the friendly giant’s pumpkin patch and hut, while Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey uses a sprinkling of magic to take you through the halls and passageways of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry before flying high over the castle grounds.
Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge
Strap in, pop on your goggles and get ready to take on the mighty Bowser on this thrilling 3D ride that replicates some of your favorite locations from the classic video game. Speed through underwater courses and up into the clouds, collecting coins and throwing shells along the way in your bid to win the coveted Golden Cup.
Best of the Rest
There are stacks more movie-themed zones to explore, including an epic Transformers ride that pits you against four-storey-high 3D Decepticons, a laugh-a-minute gentle Minions ride that ends, of course, with an interactive dance party, and the terrifying immersive universe of Jurassic World, where you’ll need your wits about you if you want to avoid becoming lunch!
Fast facts: Warner Bros. Studios
You can get the standard studio tour with an attraction pass from Go City, and save $$$ if you’re planning to visit two or more big attractions while you’re in town. Or pimp up your tour with a variety-pack of options available on the official website, including access to the Prop Department and lunch in the Central Perk Café.
Open daily from 8:30AM to 3:30PM daily. Closed June 13–14.
Warner Bros. Studios is at 3400 W Warner Dr, Burbank, CA 91505. Bus routes 155, 222 and 501 connect from downtown LA. Parking is also available for $15.
Fast facts: Universal Studios
You can buy tickets and VIP experiences direct from the official website, or get one-day access with an attraction pass from Go City and save when visiting multiple attractions, including Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Studios, the Hollywood sign tour and more.
Park hours vary throughout the year, but it generally opens daily from morning until late. You’ll find the most up-to-date opening hours here.
Universal Studios is at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608. There are multiple ways to get there, including by bus and metro, and a range of parking options are also available. You’ll find all the latest information here.