Universal Studio's Back lot on Fire
Film Archives Feared Lost - New Ethos Source Says Original Film Stock Most Likely Safe - Fr. Don Offers Prayer
[June 1, 2008, Universal City, CA.]: It has been said that you need to come to Los Angeles, the capital of the entertainment world, to "see and disbelieve." As I emerged from the rectory at St. Finbar parish (Burbank, CA.) to greet Sunday worshipers coming out of morning mass, I wasn't sure what to believe as I looked in the direction of Hollywood's smoked filled sky. Was it another LA fire encroaching on Hollywood or Burbank? But it seemed to be coming from the Universal Studios direction. Were they filming a movie?
Hollywood has given the world countless images of make believe and in some cases have convinced people that certain super heroes exist, that there is a Gotham City, or that certain monsters exist. Universal Studios is one of the those studios that have given us King Kong and made us wonder if we really could go back to the future. I tuned into the local radio where it was reported that early Sunday morning, at approximately 4:45 am, resident neighbors of the famed studio lot in Universal City, CA. (couched between Hollywood and Burbank) heard a couple of loud explosions of what initial reports have said were propane tanks that exploded on the back lot; the site of "Back to the Future", Old New York sets, and the King Kong exhibit. Within in minutes the fire had destroyed these famed sets and jumped into adjoining storage areas.
For real? I grabbed a "Pikes Place" at Starbucks and scurried as close as I could to the site. I bumped into a firemen who had just come from the site. He indicated that the fire seemed to have started in a main sound stage area, quickly spread to the sets, and is now engulfing some storage vaults that house film archives. Is it true? Could all those precious originals of Alfred Hitchcock and other Hollywood classics be up in flames? I needed a closer look. But where? Ah, Hollywood Hills.
Hollywood Hills provided me the panoramic view I needed of the back lot. This fire was for real. There was a cameraman from KTLA getting some footage. I guess I picked the right spot. I spoke with a few bystanders. One has actually worked at the back lot before. I mentioned what a shame to have those archives destroyed. He said that the original stock is most likely not in that area and is, as a matter of fact, stored safely in a mountain in Colorado. He said the interior of the mountain provides the type of environment to preserve such precious archives.
[View of back lot from atop of Hollywood Hills. Building at bottom right is the Norman Bates house from "Psycho." The set on the bottom left to center is the plane crash wreckage from "War of the Worlds"]
I am not sure what to believe right now, even with seeing it. So what do you do in doubt? Give a blessing! My prayer and blessing over the fire and for the folks of Universal Studios is that no one gets hurt, that what has been destroyed can be replaced for all to enjoy again, and that those precious original film stocks really are safe. Universal Studios has provided our culture with many gifts. I pray that God may protect what has provided so many creative gifts to our culture.
by: Fr. Don Woznicki in Burbank, CA.