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17 Must-Read Tips for Universal Studios Hollywood with Kids

17 Must-Read Tips for Universal Studios Hollywood with Kids

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Are you thinking about visiting Universal Studios on your next family vacation? Don’t miss these must-know tips for Universal Studios Hollywood with kids from a family who has visited multiple times.
This list of tips for Universal Studios Hollywood with kids contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

We’ve visited Universal Studios Hollywood several times throughout the years. Most recently, we did a day trip there for Spring Break.

Our main reason for planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood during Spring Break was to ride Mario Kart at the new Super Nintendo World.

But, our kids also love hanging out in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and you never have to twist our arms to do that!

Since we’ve been to this Southern California theme park a few times, I figured it was about time that I wrote up some of our personal Universal Studios tips and tricks!

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Universal Studios Hollywood blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Universal Studios with kids.

Where to Stay at Universal Studios Hollywood

How to Get Discount Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets

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Where is Universal Studios California?

Universal Studios Hollywood is located in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County, California. It is about 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles and about 5 miles west of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Hotels by Universal Studios Hollywood

Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City

This hotel is located just a short walk from the park entrance and offers luxurious accommodations with stunning views of the Hollywood Hills. We’ve stayed here twice and it’s super convenient, especially with the free shuttle service.

Hilton Lost Angeles/Universal City

Guests can enjoy amenities such as an outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site dining options. Check the latest rates and availability.

Sheraton Universal Hotel

Another great option for guests looking to stay close to Universal Studios Hollywood is the Sheraton Universal Hotel. This hotel features modern guest rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, and a fitness center.

Sheraton Universal Hotel

Guests can also take advantage of the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service to the park. Check the latest rates and availability.

The Garland

The Garland is a stylish and retro-inspired hotel located just a mile from Universal Studios Hollywood. Guests can enjoy amenities such as a heated outdoor pool, fitness center, and on-site restaurant.

The Garland

The hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle service to and from the park. Check the latest rates and availability.

BLVD Hotel & Spa

The BLVD Hotel & Spa is a trendy and modern hotel located just a short drive from Universal Studios Hollywood. This hotel offers spacious and stylish guest rooms, an outdoor pool, and a full-service spa.

BLVD Hotel & Spa

Guests can also enjoy complimentary shuttle service to and from the park. Check the latest rates and availability.

Tilt Hotel Universal/Hollywood

The Tilt Hotel Universal/Hollywood offers budget-friendly accommodations just a mile from Universal Studios Hollywood. Guests can enjoy amenities such as a heated outdoor pool, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast.

Tilt Hotel Universal/Hollywood

The hotel also offers a free shuttle service to the park. Check the latest rates and availability.

Deals for Universal Studios Hollywood Tickets

We’re all looking for cheap Universal Studios Hollywood tickets, right? I can’t promise you cheap, but I will say that Get Away Today offers discounts on all types of Universal Studios Hollywood tickets.

VIP Tours

My husband and I did the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP tour on our first trip to the theme park and it was pretty spectacular.

These kids from Despicable Me were a hoot to take photos with at this character meet and greet at Universal Studios Hollywood
We loved walking around with our VIP lanyards! Photo credit: Wonderful staff at Universal

We went to the front of the line for all the attractions, got a nice sit-down lunch, and got to walk around TV show sets. Check the latest rates for discounted VIP tours.

Universal Express Pass

We’ve done the Universal Studios Hollywood Express Pass for our last two trips to the theme park with kids and it’s been a lifesaver.

Basically, you get to skip the long line. It’s perfect if you are only spending one day at Universal Studios Hollywood and want to maximize your time. Check the latest rates for discounted Universal Express passes.

1-Day and 2-Day Admission Tickets

If you want the standard Universal Studios Hollywood tickets, you can choose either a 1-day or 2-day pass.

There aren’t any perks but you’ll still be able to do a ton of stuff. Check the latest rates for discounted Universal Studios Hollywood tickets.

Bumblebee and Optimus Prime at Universal Studios Hollywood
Bumblebee and Optimus Prime at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Guide to Universal Studios Hollywood

In my opinion, there are two main areas that people like to hang out in at Universal Studios Hollywood. These are the new Super Nintendo World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Super Nintendo World

The newest area of Universal Studios Hollywood is Super Nintendo World in the lower lot. We visited it a few weeks after it opened and it’s seriously cool. I wrote a whole guide to Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Hollywood.

Check out these expert tips for Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Hollywood by top family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland. Image of a dad and two boys walking into Super Nintendo World.
The newest area in Universal Hollywood is Super Nintendo World. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There’s just one ride here: Mario Kart Bowser’s Challenge. You’ll walk through Bowsers Castle before going on an Augmented Reality race. It’s super fun for kids and adults!

If you have standard park tickets, you’ll need to make a reservation for the virtual line pass for a one-time entry. If you have Universal Express passes or are part of a VIP tour, you can just walk right in.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This is the other major attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. While it’s not as massive as the one in Florida, it’s still completely immersive.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hogwarts
You’ll really feel like you’re inside the world of Harry Potter! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There are two rides that are pretty fun. The Flight of the Hippogriff is a super fast but quick rollercoaster. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is an immersive dark ride where you’ll feel like a part of the story.

There’s also a photo op with the Hogwarts Express (no the train doesn’t go anywhere) and performances throughout the day.

It’s also one of the best places to shop at Universal Studios Hollywood. You can get a monogrammed Hogwarts robe, a wand from Olivander’s, and stock up on treats!

Upper Lot

Besides the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, there are tons of attractions in the Upper Lot.

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • The Simpsons Ride
  • The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!
  • The DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda
  • Silly Swirly Fun Ride

Lower Lot

Besides Super Nintendo World, there are several attractions in the Lower Lot.

  • Jurassic World: The Ride
  • Revenge of the Mummy
  • Transformers The Ride: 3-D

How Long Does it Take to Get Between the Upper Lot and the Lower Lot?

The Upper and Lower Lots at Universal Studios Hollywood are connected by a series of escalators, stairs, and elevators. The total walking distance between the two lots is about 0.3 miles.

Image of the escalator at Universal Studios Hollywood
One of the many escalators at Universal Studios to connect the Upper Lot to the Lower Lot. photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The average time it takes to walk between the two lots is about 10 minutes, but this can vary depending on the time of day and the number of people in the park.

One of my top tips for Universal Studios Hollywood is to do all the rides in the Lower Lot you’d like to do in one go. That way, you’ll avoid going up and down the escalators too many times.

Best Rides at Universal Studios Los Angeles for Kids

Most of the best rides for kids are located in the Upper Lot.

Silly Swirly Fun Ride

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with toddlers, this ride should be high on your list. It’s located in the Super Silly Fun Land and it’s basically like riding Dumbo at Disneyland.

Image of a mom and boy on the Silly Swirl Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood
Silly Swirl Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The line is usually short and kids can play in the play area while someone waits in line. There is no height requirement but kids under 48″ will need to ride with an adult.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem

If you have a Minions fan, they will definitely want to do this ride! It’s sort of like a virtual rollercoaster. So, if anyone feels a little woozy, they can just close their eyes. Kids need to be at least 40″ to ride.

The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash!

This is my kids’ favorite ride, hands-down. Even the line has plenty of things to look at as you meander through the apartments. They even have little videos playing in one part.

Secret Life of Pets Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood
Secret Life of Pets ride at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The ride itself is really adorable and reminds me of the Monsters Inc. ride at Disneyland. Kids need to be at least 38″ to ride.

The Simpsons Ride

My kids haven’t seen the TV show, but my 9-year-old LOVES this ride! It’s sort of similar to Despicable Me Minion Mayhem but with a different storyline. Kids need to be at least 40″ to ride.

Mario Kart Bowser’s Challenge

The newest ride at Universal Studios Hollywood is Mario Kart Bowser’s Challenge in Super Nintendo World.

Image of a mom and son in the Mario Kart Bowser's Challenge ride at Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Mario Kart Bowser’s Challenge is a blast. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

My kids thought it was super fun to try to defeat Team Bowser (especially after watching the movie). But, since it’s a new ride, it usually has super long wait times. Kids need to be at least 40″ to ride Mario Kart.

The DreamWorks Theatre Featuring Kung Fu Panda

I would almost say this is more of a show than a ride. It’s a 4D movie experience where the seats move as you go on a short adventure with the gang from Kung Fu Panda.

It’s really cute and a great way to get out of the sun for a bit. There is no height requirement.

Best Universal Studios Hollywood Rides for Thrill Seekers

Jurassic World: The Ride

If you’re looking for a water ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, this is it! You’ll hop in a boat and explore Jurassic World before splashing down into a pool of water. Kids need to be at least 42″ to ride.

Revenge of the Mummy

My 9-year-old loves rollercoasters so he thought he’d also like this ride. It turns out it was pretty creepy for him. But it definitely has all the thrill factors. Kids need to be at least 48″ to ride.

Transformers The Ride: 3-D

This is another dark ride on a track where you’re immersed in a Transformers storyline. The ride itself isn’t super intense but the action on the screen amplifies everything. Kids need to be at least 40″ to ride.

The Flight of the Hippogriff

This is the only actual rollercoaster at Universal Hollywood. It’s really short and kids just need to be at least 39″ to ride.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

This is a really immersive ride through Hogwarts and the surrounding area. You even get to be part of a quidditch match!

Kids need to be at least 48″ to ride, so double-check their height. You can also just walk through Hogwarts and skip the line (or rider swap) if they are too short.

What to do at Universal Studios Hollywood Besides Rides

Another one of my tips for Universal Studios Hollywood is to add is some activities that AREN’T rides. There are plenty of other Universal Studios Hollywood attractions.

Character Meet and Greets

You really never know who you might meet at Universal Studios Hollywood.

Typically, we see minions, Gru, and even the girls near the Despicable Me area. It’s all set up for photo ops.

There’s also Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and Megatron in the Transformers area. They usually interact a lot with guests so it’s always fun to take videos here.

Image of Princess Peach posing with a family at Super Nintendo World Universal Studios Hollywood
I’m a HUGE fan of character photos! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

In the new Super Nintendo World area, you’ll be able to meet Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach at designated times.

On our last trip to Universal Hollywood, we also saw the gang from Scooby Doo, Trolls, Shrek, and Simpsons characters.

Play Areas

Located in the Jurassic World area in the Lower Lot, DinoPlay is an interactive play area for little kids. There’s a place to dig for dinosaur fossils, check out a full-size T-Rex skull, and run across a rope plank bridge.

Super Silly Fun Land is an elaborate play zone near the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. There’s a play structure, seating, and lots of shade.

Wand Magic in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you decide to splurge on a wand at Olivander’s or the wand stand, you’ll get a map that shows you where you can perform magic spells in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Image of two boys wearing Harry Potter robes and scarves at Universal Studios Hollywood.
My kids love using their wands to create “real” magic! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

There are usually staff members around who will help kids do the spells correctly so they can make sounds happen or watch things move. It’s really quite entertaining!

Universal Studios Hollywood Shows

There are also several shows if your family needs a break from the rides (or waiting in line).

The most popular show at Universal Studios Hollywood is WaterWorld. It features jumping jet skiers, perilous plunges, firefights, massive explosions, and a crazy plane crash you need to see to believe.

There’s also the Frog Choir and Triwizard Spirit Rally shows in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Carnival Games

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with kids, they will probably beg to do the carnival games. These are located in the Despicable Me area and the Simpsons area.

Image of two boys playing carnival games at Universal Studios Hollywood
This is one of the carnival games in the Silly Fun Land. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

The games cost money and are not included in your theme park ticket.

World Famous Studio Tour

I don’t really classify the World Famous Studio Tour as a ride, even though there are some ride elements to it.

Basically, it’s a nice break from the theme park where you can rest your legs and see some cool movie magic.

If you have young kids who need a nap or some quiet time, try to do this in the afternoon.

Shopping at Universal Studios Hollywood

If you are a movie buff, you’ll probably have just as much fun perusing the gift shops as you will going on the rides!

Image of the interior of Honeydukes in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Honeydukes in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

While we had fun checking out all the new Super Mario Bros merchandise on this last trip, we also love popping into Honeydukes in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to pick up treats.

Best Food at Universal Studios Hollywood

I want to start off by saying that if you are a “foodie”, you probably won’t be wowed by much in the theme park. It’s all pretty standard theme park food.

However, there are a few things that stand out to me that I figured I’d share with you.

Pretzels

I’m a total carb addict and love getting hot pretzels at theme parks. I have to say, the ones at Universal Studios Hollywood are by far the best ones!

Universal Studios Hollywood Pretzel
My kids love the pretzels at Universal Studios Hollywood. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

We like to stop at the stand in between the escalators. They are drizzled with hot butter and you can get a cheesy dip that has a kick.

Pasties at Hog’s Head

These are small, savory pastries that are filled with meat, vegetables, and cheese. They are the perfect snack or light meal. And they are easy to eat on the go.

Butterbeer

I realize this isn’t technically food, but it’s so good that I needed to mention it at some point. Butterbeer tastes like cream soda mixed with a bit of butterscotch. You’ll find it in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Image of frozen butterbeer at Universal Studios Hollywood
We ALWAYS get Butterbeer when we visit Universal Studios Hollywood! Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

They have traditional Butterbeer, a Butterbeer float, and frozen Butterbeer (which is my favorite).

At Christmas, they have a hot version that is incredible!

Shepherd’s Pie at Finnegan’s Bar & Grill

This is a classic Irish dish that is perfect for a cold day. The ground beef is cooked with vegetables and topped with a creamy mashed potato topping. You can find it near the Simpsons ride.

Planning a Trip to Universal Studios Hollywood Tips and Tricks

If you’re planning a trip to Universal Studios Hollywood, we’ve got you covered with some helpful tips and tricks to make your visit a success!

Buy Tickets in Advance

Purchasing your tickets online in advance will save you time and money. You’ll also avoid waiting in long lines at the ticket booth. Get discount tickets here.

Arrive Early

The park tends to be less crowded in the morning, so arriving early will give you a chance to experience more attractions before the crowds arrive.

And if you’re planning on visiting Super Nintendo World, you might want to splurge for early access tickets to enter the land a full hour before the park opens.

Check the Schedule

Make sure to check the schedule of shows and attractions before your visit so you can plan your day accordingly.

Download the Universal Studios Hollywood App

Universal Studios Hollywood has a free app that will provide you with real-time information about wait times, show schedules, and more.

Bring Sunscreen and Comfortable Shoes

Southern California can get hot, and you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so make sure to bring sunscreen and wear comfortable shoes.

We’re from Seattle and my husband’s neck got toasty because he forgot to re-apply his sunscreen.

Use the Single Rider Line

If you don’t mind riding alone or splitting up your group, the Single Rider Line can save you a lot of time and get you on popular attractions faster.

Take Advantage of the Child Swap Program

If you have young children who are too small to ride certain attractions, you can take advantage of the Child Swap program.

One adult can wait with the child while the other rides, and then they can switch without having to wait in line again.

Get the Express Pass

If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, the Express Pass will allow you to skip the regular lines at most attractions.

Universal Studios Hollywood Parking Tips

The earlier you arrive, the better chance you have of getting a spot in the general parking lot.

Image of Universal Studios Hollywood Parking garage
This is where we park when we rent a car. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Consider parking in one of the preferred parking lots. These lots are closer to the entrance of the park and cost more, but they can save you time in the long run.

Take advantage of the Universal CityWalk parking structure. This structure is connected to the park and offers a variety of payment options.

How to do Universal Studios Hollywood in One Day

Doing Universal Studios Hollywood in one day can be a bit of a challenge, but with some careful planning and strategy, it’s definitely doable!

Here are some tips to help you make the most of your one day at the park:

Arrive Early

As mentioned before, arriving early is key to avoiding crowds and experiencing more attractions. Aim to get to the theme park at least 30 minutes before it opens.

They usually start letting people in through the main gates about 15-20 minutes before the park opens. Then, you can move closer to the area you want to rope drop.

You can also purchase an early access ticket for Super Nintendo World.

Prioritize Your Must-See Attractions

Before your visit, make a list of the attractions you absolutely must see, and plan to hit those first. This might include popular rides like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or the Transformers ride.

It also helps to show your kids YouTube videos of what some of the rides are like so they know whether or not they’d like to do them.

And I suggest measuring your kids before you go and check to see which rides they can and can’t do base on their height. This will minimize tears at the ride entrance.

Use the Single Rider Line

As mentioned in the previous answer, the Single Rider Line can save you a lot of time, so take advantage of it when possible.

This works out great if only one adult/teen wants to do a ride. Then everyone else can do a different ride at the same time.

Take Advantage of Show Times

Shows like WaterWorld and the Special Effects Show have set times throughout the day, so make sure to check the schedule and plan your day around these performances.

Eat on the Go

To save time, consider eating snacks or quick meals on the go. There are plenty of food carts and quick-service restaurants throughout the park.

Honestly, the food at Universal Studios Hollywood isn’t amazing, so if you want to maximize your time, just do grab-and-go stuff.

However, if you all need a break from running around, sitting down to eat might re-energize you enough to stay out later.

Consider the Express Pass

If you’re willing to spend a bit more money, the Express Pass can help you skip the regular lines and experience more attractions in less time.

It’s really like cramming everything you’d do with a 2-day pass into one day. Check Express Pass rates and availability.

Use the Child Swap Program

If you have young children who are too small to ride certain attractions, take advantage of the Child Swap program to maximize your time.

It’s a great way to let older kids get to do a ride twice!

Don’t Forget to Have Fun

While it’s important to have a strategy in place, don’t forget to have fun! Universal Studios Hollywood is an incredibly fun and immersive experience, so make sure to enjoy yourself and take in all the sights and sounds of the park.

By following these tips, you can experience the best of Universal Studios Hollywood in just one day!

Seasonal Events at Universal Studios Hollywood

4th of July Celebration

There’s a cool fireworks display on the 4th of July as well as some other events.

Halloween Horror Nights

Commonly considered Southern California’s scariest Halloween event, Halloween Horror Nights is not for the faint of heart. In fact, they recommend it only for people ages 13 and older.

It features terrifying haunted houses, the Terror Tram, sinister scare zones, outrageous entertainment, and exhilarating attractions.

Grinchmas

If you visit Universal Studios Hollywood during the holiday season, you’ll get to experience Grinchmas! We did this one year and it’s a blast!

Image of two boys posing with a fake snowman at Universal Studios Hollywood
There are several cute photo ops around Christmas. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Don’t miss Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It really is magical, especially when the snow falls in the evening!

EVE at Universal Studios Hollywood

If you’re visiting Universal Studios Hollywood on December 31, be prepared for multiple dance parties and a midnight countdown celebration with fireworks.

Universal Studios Hollywood FAQs

How do you get the most at Universal Studios Hollywood?

To get the most out of your visit to Universal Studios Hollywood, it’s important to plan ahead and prioritize the attractions and shows you want to see.

You can also consider purchasing a Universal Express Pass to skip the lines and maximize your time in the park. Additionally, be sure to check the park’s website for special events and promotions to take advantage of during your visit.

How much are Universal Studios Hollywood tickets?

The price of Universal Studios Hollywood tickets varies depending on the day of your visit and whether you purchase them online or at the gate. As of February 2023, the cost of a 1-day ticket is $109 if purchased online or $129 if purchased at the gate.

You can save money by purchasing a multi-day ticket or an annual pass. The cost of a 2-day ticket is $199 online and $229 at the gate. The cost of an annual pass starts at $99 per month.

How big is Universal Studios Hollywood?

Universal Studios Hollywood is a 415-acre entertainment complex located in Los Angeles, California. The theme park itself covers 67 acres and includes a variety of attractions, rides, and shows.

Can you bring baby food to Universal Studios Hollywood?

Yes, you can bring baby food to Universal Studios Hollywood. The park allows guests to bring in food and drinks, as long as they are not in glass containers or large quantities.

This includes baby food, formula, and other dietary needs. You can also bring in a soft-sided cooler, but it must be no larger than 8.5 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches.

How does the virtual line for Super Nintendo World work?

First, download the Universal Studios Hollywood app on your smartphone. Open the app and sign in to your account. Tap the “Virtual Line” icon at the bottom of the screen.

Select “Super Nintendo World” from the list of attractions. Enter the number of people in your party and pick a time slot. Finally, tap “Join Virtual Line”.

Is the animal encounters show still running at Universal Studios Hollywood?

No, the Animal Actors show closed on January 1, 2023. The show featured a variety of animals, including dogs, birds, and pigs, performing tricks and stunts.

It was one of the longest-running shows at Universal Studios Hollywood, having been in operation since 1963.

What’s the best day to go to Universal Studios Hollywood?

The best day to go to Universal Studios Hollywood may vary depending on factors such as crowd levels, weather, and special events.

Generally, weekdays and non-peak seasons are less crowded than weekends and peak seasons. I also suggest arriving early in the day and considering purchasing a Universal Express Pass to skip the lines.

How long do you need at Universal Studios Hollywood?

The amount of time needed at Universal Studios Hollywood varies depending on factors such as crowd levels and the number of attractions you want to see. Generally, a full day (8-10 hours) is recommended to see all the attractions and shows in the park.

What’s the airport near Universal Studios Hollywood?

The nearest airport to Universal Studios Hollywood CA is the Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR), which is located approximately 7 miles away. Other nearby airports include Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Long Beach Airport (LGB), which are both approximately 25 miles away.

Los Angeles Universal Studios Hollywood Wrap Up

Visiting Universal Studios Hollywood with kids can be an unforgettable experience. With the right tips and tricks, you can ensure that your family has a fantastic time at this theme park.

Remember to plan ahead and arrive early, take advantage of the Universal Express Pass, and use child swap services for the more intense thrill rides.

One of the highlights of any visit to Universal Studios Hollywood CA is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Be sure to check out Hogwarts Castle, Hogsmeade, and the Forbidden Journey ride.

And for all the gamers in the family, don’t miss out on Super Nintendo World, which offers a uniquely immersive experience. Get your discount Universal Studios Hollywood tickets here.

Looking for more tips for Universal Studios Hollywood? Check out our review of the Universal Studios Hollywood VIP Pass, guide to Super Nintendo World, and guide to Christmas at Universal Studios Hollywood!

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