I woke up this morning thinking it was an uncharacteristically gray day here in Studio City, California. Turns out the sky was filled with smoke from the blazing Universal backlot, about a quarter of a mile from where I now type. The fire broke out at about 4:45 this morning, and required 100 firefighters to get it under control. Three firefighters were injured.

The toll for movie lovers was higher. The clock tower from Back to the Future was destroyed, as were the New York City street set and the New England street set. Also destroyed was a soundstage. I’m sure a full accounting of which historic areas of the Universal lot are gone will be coming in the next few days.

The fire also hit a video vault, where 40 to 50,000 videos and reels of film were stored. Universal employees were taking reels out by hand to save them. The good news, according to Ron Meyer, CEO of
Universal Studios, is that we haven’t lost a rare negative or the final print of a classic film. “Fortunately, nothing irreplaceable was lost,” he said. “The video library was affected and damaged, but our
main vault of our motion picture negatives was not.”

I’ve been tinkering with a Devin’s Advocate piece about the different lots around town, and what it’s like as a movie geek to be standing someplace movie history was made. I’m just glad that I’ve been able to be on the Universal backlot in the past, and to have stood on the clock tower steps and to have walked on those street sets. Rumor has it that the fire broke out during a shoot – you have to wonder if whatever they were shooting was worth the loss of so much movie history.