Universal Upbeat in Studio Fire Aftermath

Universal Studios chief Ron Meyer says no irreparable harm to film/TV library from June 1.

In an email to employees, Universal Studios president/COO Ron Meyer said that the June 1 studio fire at Universal Studios—the result of a worker accident—did not cause irreparable harm, especially to NBCU’s valuable film/TV library.

“Although our video vault was destroyed, losing thousands of tapes and hundreds of duplicate film prints that we are now in the process of recreating, the vault in which we store our library of films was untouched,” Meyer said in the Thursday memo. “The teams are still assessing what was lost and what may have been salvaged, but we do know there will be minimal long-term impact on what we do, as our company has taken film preservation very seriously and adhered to a policy of geographically separating elements that ensure our film and video legacy can continue.

“We are focused on bringing back our historic back lot tour, developing a replacement for King Kong and rebuilding (production backdrop) New York Street. I will keep you posted as we progress.”

Meyer also said news reports suggesting that the studio’s fire sprinkler system had inadequate water pressure are not true.

The fire erupted in the wee hours of Sunday morning June 1, burning several square blocks of movie sets on the blacklot and the King Kong studio tour attraction. A huge plume of smoke from Universal Studios, which is the sprawling 415-acre film lot at the north end of Cahuenga Pass in Los Angeles, was visible for miles away.

The Universal Studios Tour was closed that day, but reopened the following day and NBCU executive offices opened normally Monday.

NBC Television intends to re-locate activities to the sprawling Universal movie/TV studio lot from its nearby 34-acre Burbank TV studio by 2011 or later, to make way for real estate development. However, The Tonight Show will move to Universal Stage One in 2009, when Conan O’Brien takes over as host.

NBCU operations scheduled to move in the 2011 time frame are local NBC and Telemundo stations, NBC Network News on the West Coast, newsmagazine Access Hollywood, NBC Television Entertainment Group, NBC Agency and all in-house promotional productions, as well as some smaller departments.

The Burbank lot is much smaller, but its flat landscape is valuable because it is part of the San Fernando Valley urban sprawl.