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Universal Fire Damages Video Vault

1 Jun, 2008 By: Chris Tribbey

NBC Universal President and COO Ron Meyer said as many as 50,000 of the videos and film had been damaged, but copies are stored in a different location.

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — A massive fire that broke out at Universal Studios early Sunday morning destroyed several sets and a building holding tens of thousands of digital and film copies of movies and TV shows. Universal said none of its DVD or Blu-ray Disc street dates will be affected.

Ten people suffered minor injuries, and the blaze took a dozen hours to extinguish. County fire officials said they believed workers putting shingles on a roof started the fire.

Up to 50,000 films were damaged, said NBC Universal president and COO Ron Meyer, but copies of everything are stored in a different location. Content included virtually every film Universal has produced and footage from dozens of TV series. Many were old movie prints circulated among movie theaters. None of the original negatives were on site.

“The video library was affected and damaged, but our main vault of our motion picture negatives was not,” Meyer said during a press conference. “Fortunately, nothing irreplaceable was lost. We have duplicates, and obviously it's a lot of work to duplicate what was lost. But it can be done.”

Los Angeles County fire chief Michael Freeman told The Associated Press that firefighters recovered hundreds of titles from the vault.

Freeman told “Fox News” that black smoke seen in the area was a result of plastic video containers burning in the vault. “They moved hundreds of containers out of that structure,” he said. The AP reported that a deputy and firefighter were injured in an explosion in the building where the videos were stored.

The fire began around 4:30 a.m. on a backlot sound stage. According to Meyer, the only production that was being filmed at the time was the CBS series “Ghost Whisperer.” Meyer said two of the locations the series was filming at were affected.

Smoke from the fire could be seen throughout the Los Angeles area, however, firefighters had the blaze contained to a small area of the studio's 400-acre property. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Also destroyed during the fire was the courthouse square from the Back to the Future films, the King Kong exhibit included in the Universal Studios tram tour, and several movie facades, according to Los Angeles County fire inspectors.

The studio's City Walk and studio attractions unaffected by the fire reopened Monday, and most studio employees were expected to return to work Monday.

“I can't say enough about the work the fire department does,” Meyer said. “I know we all know it, but they are real heroes. They were here in record time. We were very lucky.”

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