A backlot is an area behind or adjoining a movie studio
Movie studio
A movie studio is a term used to describe a major entertainment company or production company that has its own privately owned studio facility or facilities that are used to film movies...

, containing permanent exterior buildings for outdoor scenes in filmmaking
Filmmaking is the process of making a film, from an initial story, idea, or commission, through scriptwriting, casting, shooting, directing, editing, and screening the finished product before an audience that may result in a theatrical release or television program...

 or television productions, or space for temporary set construction
Set construction
Set construction is the process by which a set designer works in collaboration with the director of a production to create the set for a theatrical, film or television production...


Some movie studios build a wide variety of sets on the backlot, which can be modified for different purposes as need requires and "dressed" to resemble any time period or look. These sets include everything from mountains, forests, ships, to small town settings from around the world, as well as streets from the Old West, to whole modern day city blocks from New York City, Paris, Berlin, and London. There are streets that comprise an assortment of architectural styles, Victorian
Victorian architecture
The term Victorian architecture refers collectively to several architectural styles employed predominantly during the middle and late 19th century. The period that it indicates may slightly overlap the actual reign, 20 June 1837 – 22 January 1901, of Queen Victoria. This represents the British and...

 to suburban homes, and 19th century-style townhouses that encircle a central park with trees. An example of this is "Forty Acres"
RKO Forty Acres
Forty Acres was a film studio backlot that belonged to RKO Pictures and later Desilu Productions, located in Culver City, California. Best known as Forty Acres, or "the back forty", it had other names such as "Desilu Culver", the "RKO backlot" and "Pathé 40 Acre Ranch" depending on which studio...

 in Culver City, California or, in the case of Universal Studios
Universal Studios
Universal Pictures , a subsidiary of NBCUniversal, is one of the six major movie studios....

, the home of Norman Bates
Norman Bates
Norman Bates is a fictional character created by writer Robert Bloch as the central character in his novel Psycho, and portrayed by Anthony Perkins as the main antagonist of the 1960 film of the same name directed by Alfred Hitchcock...

 from the Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

 movie Psycho
Psycho (1960 film)
Psycho is a 1960 American suspense/psychological horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film is based on the screenplay by Joseph Stefano, who adapted it from the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch...


The shells, or facades, on a studio backlot are usually constructed with three sides and a roof, often missing the back wall and/or one of the side walls. The interior is an unfinished space, with no rooms, and from the back of the structure one can see the electrical wires, pipes, beams and scaffolding, which are fully exposed. Ladders are usually built into the structure, allowing performers to climb to an upper-floor window or the roof to do scenes. Not all the buildings and houses are shells, however. Some are closed in with a fourth wall. When not otherwise in use, they double as storage facilities for lighting and other production equipment. When in use, the structures are dressed by adding doors, window treatments and landscaping. L-shaped temporary walls are placed inside of doors to give the illusion of an interior. When not in use, however, the structures are usually stripped of this dressing.

Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks is an American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer. He is best known as a creator of broad film farces and comic parodies. He began his career as a stand-up comic and as a writer for the early TV variety show Your Show of Shows...

' Blazing Saddles
Blazing Saddles
Blazing Saddles is a 1974 satirical Western comedy film directed by Mel Brooks. Starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder, the film was written by Brooks, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, and Al Uger, and was based on Bergman's story and draft. The movie was nominated for three...

offers a rare look into the Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 backlot, with scenes spilling off the Laramie Street set into various stages and eventually out of Gate 3 onto Olive Blvd. in Burbank, California
Burbank, California
Burbank is a city in Los Angeles County in Southern California, United States, north of downtown Los Angeles. The estimated population in 2010 was 103,340....

. Television shows such as Moonlighting
Moonlighting (TV series)
Moonlighting is an American television series that aired on ABC from March 3, 1985, to May 14, 1989. The network aired a total of 66 episodes...

and It's Garry Shandling's Show
It's Garry Shandling's Show
It's Garry Shandling's Show is an American sitcom which was initially broadcast on Showtime from 1986 to 1990. It was created by Garry Shandling and Alan Zweibel. The show is notable for its frequent use of breaking the fourth wall to allow characters to speak directly to the audience...

also broke the fourth wall
Fourth wall
The fourth wall is the imaginary "wall" at the front of the stage in a traditional three-walled box set in a proscenium theatre, through which the audience sees the action in the world of the play...

 and gave audiences a peek of life on the other side of the camera.

All the sets on a studio backlot are built so that what looks large or as if it covers miles of ground on the big or small screen in reality only takes up a few acres of the backlot.

Today many studio backlots are gone or nearly gone as Los Angeles real estate prices and more location filming have driven the sale of the backlots to developers. In their heyday, some backlots covered hundreds of acres around existing studios and filmmakers rarely left the lot. Though some studios like MGM
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. is an American media company, involved primarily in the production and distribution of films and television programs. MGM was founded in 1924 when the entertainment entrepreneur Marcus Loew gained control of Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer...

 and Fox
20th Century Fox
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation — also known as 20th Century Fox, or simply 20th or Fox — is one of the six major American film studios...

 sold vast tracts in the '60s and '70s, many historical sets continue to be razed even now as there seems to be little interest in their preservation. Most recently, the western town set of Warner Brothers, used in TV shows Bonanza
Bonanza is an American western television series that both ran on and was a production of NBC from September 12, 1959 to January 16, 1973. Lasting 14 seasons and 430 episodes, it ranks as the second longest running western series and still continues to air in syndication. It centers on the...

, The Waltons
The Waltons
The Waltons is an American television series created by Earl Hamner, Jr., based on his book Spencer's Mountain, and a 1963 film of the same name. The show centered on a family growing up in a rural Virginia community during the Great Depression and World War II. The series pilot was a television...

and films like Wild Wild West
Wild Wild West
Wild Wild West is a 1999 American steampunk action-comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and starring Will Smith, Kevin Kline , Kenneth Branagh and Salma Hayek.Similar to the original TV series it was based on, The Wild Wild West, the film features a large amount of gadgetry...

have been razed and repurposed into office space.

See also

  • Cinema
    A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

  • History of cinema
  • Sound stage
    Sound stage
    In common usage, a sound stage is a soundproof, hangar-like structure, building, or room, used for the production of theatrical filmmaking and television production, usually located on a secure movie studio property.-Overview:...

  • Movie ranch
    Movie ranch
    A movie ranch is a ranch that is at least partially dedicated to being used as a site for the creation and production of motion pictures, and television productions...

  • Location shooting
    Location shooting
    Location shooting is the practice of filming in an actual setting rather than on a sound stage or back lot. In filmmaking a location is any place where a film crew will be filming actors and recording their dialog. A location where dialog is not recorded may be considered as a second unit...

External links

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