Here’s how you can live your fan moments via guided studio tours

Central Perk set at Warner Bros Studio in Burbank

Central Perk set at Warner Bros Studio in Burbank   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement


After culture, selfies and food, people are now travelling for another reason — to get a feel of what it is like to be on a television show’s set, reliving their favourite characters

“How you doin?”, “We were on a break”, “The art of unagi”... these phrases might put an instant smile on your face, if you have grown up religiously following the celebrated sitcom Friends.

The TV show from the ’90s is no longer a pop culture phenomenon; it has become a part of our lives. Ever wondered what transpired inside the walls of Central Perk, the iconic café where Ross, Joey, Chandler, Monica, Phoebe and Rachel whiled away 10 seasons? Have you daydreamed about spending #ComfyTime on that orange couch at Central Perk or breaking into an impromptu dance in front of the fountain that features in the title song.

Make your wish come true by embarking on Friendsgiving, a three-hour-long studio tour, organised by Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Friends, as part of Thanksgiving celebrations. It is priced at $139 (approx ₹10,000), and is on till December 1.

The idea behind these tours is to offer an immersive experience, thereby allowing visitors to relive and recreate fan moments inside the sets. “Studio tours give guests a unique opportunity to step behind the lens and see the actual sets and sound stages where great names in the industry made history. In intimate groups led by knowledgeable guides, guests explore the sets of their favourite films and TV shows,” says an official from Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, in an email interview.

Here’s how you can live your fan moments via guided studio tours

The Central Perk set is just the icing on the cake at the 110-acre Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, which also encompasses Apartment 4A, The Elevator and Caltech Physics Department Cafeteria from The Big Bang Theory as well as exhibits from the Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts.

Every year, fans arrive in batches at Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood located in Burbank, California, to experience the joy of being an ‘insider’ and explore the various facets of Hollywood.

Studio tours are typically organised by giant production houses. But there is another brand-building exercise wherein the tours are moderated and operated by fans at places made popular by TV shows.

These are independent bodies that have no connection with either the production house or the broadcasting company, but work with a singular purpose: that of offering a memorable experience. Fans tour, as it is called, also enables in registering maximum footfalls, therefore making the filming locations a global travel destination.

Around the world in five shows
  • The Vampire Diaries: Mystic Grill, Georgia
  • Sherlock: Speedy’s Sandwich Bar & Cafe, Kings Cross, London
  • House of Cards: Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  • Sacred Games: Nash & Nayo by Vista Rooms, Lonavala
  • The Walking Dead: Woodbury, Main Street, Georgia

For instance, take the case of Northern Ireland, where the sensational period drama Game of Thrones was shot. It has now become a sought-after place for tourists, after Dubrovnik in Croatia. According to Tourism Northern Ireland’s website, the region made over 50 million Euros in 2018, most of which came from GoT fans.

Thanks to the show’s popularity, the GoT tour, which started with a 25-seater coach operating three times a week from Dublin in 2014, has now expanded to 25 full coaches per week from Dublin, Derry, Tollymore and Belfast — the tickets priced under €70 (approx ₹5,530).

“We provide replica Stark cloaks and leather Ironborn jerkins as well as replica swords, shields and banners from the show and our guides have all worked as extras on GoT for many years. They will lead you through old growth forests, through crumbling ruins and along windswept rocky beaches to see some of the most beautiful scenery in Northern Ireland,” says Dorothy Nealon, business development manager of Game of Thrones Tours, shedding light on their model, adding, “At each location, our guide will use video footage to show how the location looked before the show and share interesting behind-the-scenes stories.”

Given the divided reviews for the final season, which premièred earlier this year, was there a major dip in the number of footfalls? “We have been busy all through the year. The show has highlighted important landscapes and scenery of Northern Ireland to the world. Getting to the country is as accessible as it has ever been. These things combined ensure we have visitors all year round,” she adds.

Walter White was here

Speaking of divided reviews, Netflix movie El Camino, a spin-off of the cult series Breaking Bad, was much-publicised before its release.

Unlike the gold-standard status set by the show, the movie opened to mixed reactions from fans and critics. However, nothing could deter fans from taking the Breaking Bad RV Tours (priced at $75, approx ₹5,400) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which has three packages — Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and El Camino tours.

“We noticed an increase in the bookings due to El Camino,” says Frank Sandoval, public relations director of NM Film Tours. 3828 Piermont Dr NE Albuquerque, NM 87111 is not some random address in New Mexico.

It was where Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the chemistry professor-turned-kingpin, resided along with Skyler (Anna Gunn). Fans drive around the property, clicking selfies — sometimes, facing the wrath of its current owner. The tour covers multiple stops, including Walter White’s house, Jesse Pinkman’s RV junkyard, Jesse’s house and Saul’s office.

Prof Carl Chinn

Prof Carl Chinn   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A rewarding experience

But these guided-tours are not limited to taking Instagrammable photos and recreating scenes from the shows.

At least, that is the line of thought that Brum Tours, which organises Peaky Blinders set visits in London, subscribes to.

The British drama, based on the real mafia gang that terrorised Birmingham in the 1900s, has earned a niche fan base of its own. What is fascinating about Brum Tours is its guide, Prof Carl Chinn, who is the great grandson of one of the original gang members, Edward Derrick.

“Guests enjoy the history and wealth of facts they discover on our tours. We have had guests who have lived in Birmingham their whole lives walk away after learning something new about their hometown. We have guests who choose to dress up on the tour, which makes for fantastic pictures under the dark viaducts,” explains Stacey Deeley of Brum Tours, about their programme, developed primarily to disseminate the rich history of England.

This eight-hour tour is planned in such a way that fans can wander through Tommy Shelby’s mansion (Arley Hall in Cheshire), relive the moments of Tommy-Grace’s wedding at the church, and stand at the exact spot where the deadly bomb went off in Season Five. “They will then take you on a tour back to the 1890s and early 1900s, recounting the story of the real gangs and taking in the Rainbow Pub because, most importantly, the term ‘Peaky Blinder’ was first penned there,” she says, adding that they average at 45 visitors for each tour, costing not more than €60 (around ₹4,700).

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:04:13 AM |

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