Universal Studios: Like Phoenix, Ready To Rise From The Ashes

Fire at Universal Studios
Fire at Universal Studios

It was a rough weekend for Universal Studios, and not because of a box office mishap.

The movie studio and its adjacent theme park owned by CNBC's parent, NBC Universal suffered a terrible fire Sunday morning, closing the theme park on a crowded Sunday, and for much of the day shutting down Citywalk, which is where I'm writing from right now (CNBC's LA bureau sits perched above the open-air mall area).

While thick black smoke looked ominous and menacing, the fire was contained and remarkably, the MTV Movie awards continued last night as planned from the Gibson Amphitheater, just a stone's throw away on the lot.

The bad news; part of the Universal backlot--New York Street and the King Kong attraction-- went up in flames, as did a video vault of digital copies of movies and TV shows. The good news is that most if not all of those digital copies exist elsewhere, so they're replaceable at a cost. Also good news, the lot's 30 soundstages emerged unscathed, and while some firefighters suffered minor injuries, no one was seriously hurt.

So what's the cost? Universal Studios president Ron Meyer said "It could have been worse." But this fire must have cost millions and millions of dollars. And it's not the first time there was a fire on the backlot--in fact it's the studio's seventh fire since 1932.

The fire didn't interrupt much production, in part because production has been quiet ahead of a potential actors strike when the Screen Actors Guild's contract with the producers association (the AMPTP) expires on June 30.

As the two sides continue their negotiations, Hollywood has been suffering a bit of a defacto strike, wanting to avoid being caught mid-shoot when actors walk out. I'll have more on that situation as talks progress this week.

The video clip is from my colleague Jane Wells.