Universal City is a community in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles County, California, that encompasses the 415 acre (.65 sq mi) property of Universal Studios. Approximately 70 percent of the property is in an unincorporated area of the county surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, and the remaining area is inside the Los Angeles city limits. Universal City is unincorporated to avoid City of Los Angeles business taxes and regulations (the community has a building permit office on site, simplifying the building process).
The community continues to be home to Universal Studios. Located in Universal City are 10 Universal City Plaza (a 36-floor office building for Universal and NBC), the Sheraton Universal, the Universal Hilton, Universal Studios Hollywood (the theme park), Universal CityWalk (a shopping and entertainment center), Gibson Amphitheatre (host to concerts and other events), and Universal's studios, sets, and lots. A Metro Rail Red Line station that serves Universal City is located across the street from 10 Universal Plaza. A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department station is located at Universal CityWalk.
It is also the home to the only paid government operated fire station on private property, Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51. This station number holds special significance to Universal. Station 51 was the fictional home of the Jack Webb/Universal television series, Emergency!
On September 10, 2007, NBC Universal management alerted its employees that the company planned to end its 56-year relationship with Burbank, California and sell much of the 34 acre Burbank complex. NBC Universal will relocate its vast television and cable operations to the Universal City complex. The new facilities - part of an $800 million skyline-altering development expected to be completed in 2011 - will be located adjacent to the Universal City Red Line subway station and feature an environmentally friendly West Coast news headquarters.
Thomas Properties Group is developing and will own NBC's new home. The so-called Peacock network will likely share its new space with other tenants. The first phase - the five-story, 315,000-square-foot (29,300 m2) broadcast studio with a 24-story post-production office facility and another 24-story high-rise with six stories of parking - should be finished in 2011. A 34-story office tower or condominium hotel is scheduled for completion in 2015, according to Thomas Properties. Eventually, the complex could employ about 3,200 people.
The Burbank studio was purchased in 1951. NBC moved The Tonight Show from Burbank to the Stage One lot at Universal Studios when Conan O'Brien took over hosting duties upon Jay Leno's exit from the program in 2009. The company plans to take West Coast network and local news operations and other facilities such as the "Access Hollywood" set to a new state-of-the art broadcast facility across the street from Universal Studios in 2011. The new facilities will be in a new building adjacent to the main subway line connecting Universal City to downtown Los Angeles. They will be across the street from Universal Studios, the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and the CityWalk tourist destination.
Burbank Mayor Marsha Ramos was quoted as saying she was sad to learn The Tonight Show is leaving the city of 105,000. "The Tonight Show put us on the map," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Without that line from Johnny Carson about beautiful downtown Burbank, most people wouldn't even know that we exist."
The dated Burbank property will be replaced by a modern media center featuring virtual studios, interactive graphic capabilities, a glass-walled newsroom and other high-tech features.
NBC's relocation and building plans still need approval from the City and County of Los Angeles. Several influential politicians have already raised concerns regarding the size of the project given increased traffic and congestion in the area.
Universal City (Lankershim Blvd) was officially opened by Carl Laemmle (pronounced Lem-Lee) on March 15, 1915 on a 230 acre (.36 sq mi) property. A crowd of men in waistcoats and women in bonnets jostled to catch a glimpse of the film stages, daredevil stunt pilots, silent-film idols and movie cameras Laemmle had brought to a dusty ranch in the hills of what is now North Hollywood.
"See how slapstick comedies are made. See your favorite screen stars do their work. See how we make the people laugh or cry or sit on the edge of their chairs the world over!" cried a poster touting Universal's opening. "C'mon out! Aw, c'mon!"
Universal Pictures' founder was a German immigrant who opened his first nickelodeon in Chicago in 1906. He moved to New York City, where he soon joined with half a dozen small motion picture companies to create the movie company he called Universal Pictures.
In 1912, Laemmle briefly operated three small studios in Hollywood but decided to consolidate them and look for more space. Laemmle leased ranchland in the San Fernando Valley in 1912, where he filmed the western "At Old Fort Dearborn." The next year, Laemmle bought the 230-acre (0.93 km2) ranch for $165,000, calling it Universal City. If it was a city, it was a haphazard one: With the help of nearly 300 movie hands and actors, he erected makeshift buildings, set up cameras and began churning out hundreds of one- and two-reel silent westerns.
Other studio chiefs laughed, calling the place "Laemmle's Folly" and jeering that it was so far out of town that Laemmle could film scenery for free anywhere he wanted. Laemmle himself had second thoughts that maybe he had made a huge mistake. But he was to soon live his greatest dreams. Success was found all around with his "city" containing streets, bungalows, sets and viewing stands—all so the public could observe the magic of moviemaking.
In the meantime, Laemmle added a zoo—then a post office, a soda fountain and other trappings of a real town. He figured that every visitor admitted for 25 cents—which included a box lunch—would generate free advertising by word of mouth.
Laemmle went on an eight-day whistle-stop tour from Chicago to Los Angeles the week before Universal City's grand opening. His promoters even sold the grand (and technically impossible) lie that Laemmle had persuaded the secretary of the Navy to send a battleship up the Los Angeles River to fire a salvo on opening day. Easterners, they hoped, would believe anything about California.
After World War I, Laemmle brought even more kin over from war-torn Europe, increasing the payroll to 70. His cheerful nepotism was immortalized in humorist Ogden Nash's couplet: Uncle Carl Laemmle has a very large faemmle.
Laemmle was forced to end studio tours in the 1920s when talkies came along and "quiet on the set" became an absolute. He sold his sprawling entertainment empire in 1936. Before his death in 1939, at age 72, he helped bring more than 200 German refugees to Los Angeles.
A nephew, Max, founded the local Laemmle Theatres chain.
Universal City didn't welcome tourists again until July 4, 1964. Next came hotels, an amphitheater, a movie complex and an urban theme park called Universal CityWalk—a faux city street and popular destination for tourists and locals.
On June 8, 1912, Carl Laemmle merged IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company) with five smaller companies to form the Universal Film Manufacturing Company. After visiting his newly his newly acquired west coast operations of Nestor Studios and Nestor Ranch, he renamed the studio "Universal Studios," and the leased Oak Crest Ranch became the first "Universal City" in the San Fernando Valley.
The first Universal/Nestor Ranch (Providencia Land and Water Development Company property Oak Crest Ranch) is presently the site of Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).
In 1915, Universal moved its Hollywood/Nestor studio and Universal/Nestor Ranch operations to its new Lankershim Blvd. location before the official opening of Universal City (Lankershim Blvd).
In 1916, The first Universal Oak Ranch, became known as the Lasky Ranch. The Hollywood studio was then leased to Christie Comedies.
The Providencia Land and Water Development Company property was used as a location for some early films, most significantly the battle scenes in the silent classic about the American Civil War, The Birth of a Nation (1915).
In 1912, Carl Laemmle (IMP) Universal Pictures took over the assets of Nestor Studios and named this area Universal City. The photograph of this area can be seen in Los Angeles Library archives: "A Birds Eye View of Universal City":
Fire protection in Universal City is provided by the Los Angeles County Fire Department. The LACFD operates Station #51 at 3900 Lankershim Boulevard as a part of Battalion 1.