2008 Universal Studios fire

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2008 Universal Studios fire_table_infobox_0

2008 Universal Studios fire2008 Universal Studios fire_table_caption_0
Date2008 Universal Studios fire_header_cell_0_0_0 June 1, 2008; 12 years ago (2008-06-01)2008 Universal Studios fire_cell_0_0_1
Location2008 Universal Studios fire_header_cell_0_1_0 Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California2008 Universal Studios fire_cell_0_1_1
Cause2008 Universal Studios fire_header_cell_0_2_0 Heated asphalt shingle2008 Universal Studios fire_cell_0_2_1
Outcome2008 Universal Studios fire_header_cell_0_3_0 Destruction of three acres of Universal backlot, King Kong Encounter, original master tapes for popular music, and digital TV and film backups2008 Universal Studios fire_cell_0_3_1
Deaths2008 Universal Studios fire_header_cell_0_4_0 02008 Universal Studios fire_cell_0_4_1
Non-fatal injuries2008 Universal Studios fire_header_cell_0_5_0 172008 Universal Studios fire_cell_0_5_1

On June 1, 2008, a fire broke out on the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood, an American film studio and theme park in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles County, California. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_0

The fire began when a worker used a blowtorch to warm asphalt shingles that were being applied to a facade. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_1

He left before checking that all spots had cooled, and a three-alarm fire broke out. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_2

Nine firefighters and a Los Angeles County sheriffs' deputy sustained minor injuries. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_3

The fire was completely extinguished after 24 hours. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_4

Universal Pictures claimed that the fire destroyed a three-acre (1.2 ha) portion of the Universal backlot, including the attraction King Kong Encounter and 40,000 to 50,000 archived digital video and film copies. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_5

A 2019 New York Times Magazine exposé asserted that the fire also destroyed 118,000 to 175,000 audio master tapes belonging to Universal Music Group (UMG). 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_6

This included original recordings belonging to some of the best-selling artists worldwide. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_7

UMG initially disputed the story, but CEO Lucian Grainge later confirmed that there had been a significant loss of musical archives. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_8

Fire 2008 Universal Studios fire_section_0

On June 1, 2008, a three-alarm fire broke out on Universal Studios Lot, the backlot of Universal Studios. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_9

The fire started when a worker was using a blowtorch to warm asphalt shingles being applied to a facade. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_10

The Los Angeles County Fire Department reported that Brownstone Street, New York Street, New England Street, the King Kong attraction, some structures that make up Courthouse Square, and the Video Vault, which contained duplicates of Universal's film library, had burned down. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_11

Aerial news footage captured the Courthouse building surviving its third fire, with only the west side slightly charred. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_12

Over 516 firefighters responded, as well as two helicopters dropping water. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_13

Nine firefighters and a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy sustained minor injuries. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_14

The fire took at least 12 hours to extinguish, in part because of the low water pressure due to the low capacity of Universal's pipes; firefighters had to tap streams and lakes. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_15

Universal executives initially claimed the fire destroyed 40,000 to 50,000 archived digital video and film copies of Universal movies and TV shows, some almost a century old, and including the films Knocked Up and Atonement, the NBC series Law & Order, The Office, and Miami Vice, and the CBS series I Love Lucy. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_16

Universal president Ron Meyer told the media that "nothing irreplaceable was lost" and that the company had duplicates of everything destroyed. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_17

Several days after the fire, it was reported that the King Kong attraction would be replaced by a new attraction. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_18

However, Universal reverted to its original plan, basing the new attraction, King Kong: 360 3-D, on the 2005 King Kong film. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_19

2019 New York Times report 2008 Universal Studios fire_section_1

In 2019, The New York Times Magazine published an investigative article by music journalist Jody Rosen which disclosed that the damage was far more serious than the studio had claimed. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_20

The fire destroyed Building 6197, a warehouse adjoining the King Kong attraction. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_21

In addition to more videos, it housed a huge archive of analog audio master tapes belonging to Universal Music Group (UMG). 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_22

The collection included the master tape catalogues of many labels acquired by UMG, including Chess, Decca, MCA, Geffen, Interscope, A&M, Impulse! 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_23 , and their subsidiary labels. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_24

Estimates of the individual items lost range from 118,000 to 175,000 album and 45 rpm single master tapes, phonograph master discs, lacquers and acetates, as well as all the documentation contained in the tape boxes. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_25

Many tapes contained unreleased recordings such as outtakes, alternative versions of released material, and instrumental "submaster" multitracks created for dubbing and mixdown. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_26

Randy Aronson, manager of the vault at the time, estimates that the masters of as many as 500,000 individual tracks were lost. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_27

Among the possible losses were the entire AVI Records catalog, all of Decca's masters from the 1930s to the 1950s, most of the original Chess masters which included artists such as Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, as well as most of John Coltrane's master tapes from his later career on Impulse! 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_28

Records. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_29

On Twitter, Rosen stated that the Coltrane masters were among the most checked-out Impulse! 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_30

items in the vault, and a source had told him that the masters for A Love Supreme were likely elsewhere during the fire. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_31

On June 25, Rosen wrote a follow-up article, listing at least 700 additional artists named in internal UMG documents as possibly affected. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_32

Rosen wrote that it was impossible to determine which recordings had been destroyed, or how much of an artist's discography had been affected. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_33

For example, Rosen said it was difficult to confirm whether the Neil Young recordings listed in the documents were the original master tapes of the albums he recorded for Geffen Records in the 1980s, or session outtakes from those records. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_34

Rosen tweeted that the documents also listed several Broadway cast recordings among the tapes destroyed. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_35

Additionally, several non-musical audio recordings were reported as destroyed, including the original recording of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 "Remaining Awake During a Great Revolution" sermon delivered at the Washington National Cathedral. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_36

Artists' responses 2008 Universal Studios fire_section_2

Bryan Adams, Semisonic drummer Jacob Slichter, and Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz said they had been told that UMG had misplaced their tapes. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_37

Richard Carpenter told the Times he had been informed about the destruction of his tapes by a UMG employee while he was working on a reissue, and only after Carpenter had made multiple, persistent inquiries. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_38

Following the publication of Rosen's articles, several affected musicians posted reactions on social media, with some noting specific tapes that may have been lost. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_39

For instance, singer-songwriter Jill Sobule said she had lost two masters in the fire, including tapes for an unreleased album produced by Joe Jackson. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_40

On June 21, 2019, five plaintiffs—singer-songwriter Steve Earle, the estates of the late Tupac Shakur and Tom Petty, and the bands Hole and Soundgarden—filed a class action lawsuit in federal court against UMG. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_41

In their complaint, the plaintiffs claim UMG never told artists about the effects of the fire and had breached their contracts by failing to properly secure its master tape collection. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_42

They further allege that UMG did not share insurance or legal payouts received as a result of the fire. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_43

The lawsuit also alleges that Universal had compiled a master inventory list of master tapes that had been destroyed. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_44

The plaintiffs seek to recover half of any insurance payments UMG received from the fire, and half of any losses that were not covered by those settlements. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_45

An uninvolved industry attorney told Billboard that the case concerned property rights, as in whether UMG or the artists owned the master tapes. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_46

On July 17, Universal moved to dismiss the class action lawsuit. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_47

On August 16, 2019, Hole dropped out of the class action lawsuit after UMG assured them that the band's masters were not affected by the fire. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_48

Slightly over a month later, UMG also claimed that Shakur, Earle, and Petty did not lose their masters in the fire, and that an investigation with Soundgarden was still ongoing. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_49

Five days later, Universal demanded Soundgarden drop the suit, which the label had also moved to dismiss, citing documentary proof that the label had informed the band about the lost masters in 2015 and accusing their lawyer of "[failing] to conduct pre-suit diligence in your rush to be the first to file." 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_50

The surviving band members declined. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_51

"Their arbitrary deadlines have zero force or effect", Howard King, their attorney, told Rolling Stone. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_52

"Until UMG reveals what it collected for their litigation claims to extensive damage to master recordings, we cannot accept their belated claim that no damages were actually suffered.” Universal's dismissal motion also publicly confirmed that master tapes for Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger album had been destroyed in the fire, and that members of the group had been made aware of the destruction in 2015 while they were working on a remaster of the album that was eventually completed with a backup safety copy. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_53

In December 2019, district court judge John Kronstadt ruled that Universal must hand over discovery evidence, and denied the label's request to postpone the delivery. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_54

In March 2020, Soundgarden and the Shakur estate dropped out of the class action against UMG. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_55

On March 23, Steve Earle also dropped out, leaving Tom Petty's widow as the only remaining plaintiff. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_56

The lawsuit was dismissed by Kronstadt on April 6, 2020. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_57

UMG response 2008 Universal Studios fire_section_3

UMG disputed the New York Times article, saying it contained "numerous inaccuracies" and "fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets". 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_58

UMG said it was unable to disclose details due to "constraints". 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_59

In a Billboard interview, UMG archivist Patrick Kraus said that several masters belonging to John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Ahmad Jamal, Nashboro Records, Chess Records and Impulse! 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_60

Records survived the fire and were still in Universal's archive. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_61

Rosen responded in his June 25 piece, noting that some of the masters that Kraus had mentioned may have survived the fire because they were being used for remastering projects at the time, or were not the primary source master. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_62

Aronson also confirmed to Rosen that the vast majority of items in the vault at the time of the fire were original, primary source master recordings. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_63

In an email to staff following the publication of Rosen's story, Lucian Grainge confirmed that UMG had suffered a serious loss of archival material. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_64

Grainge wrote, "While I've been somewhat relieved by early reports from our team that many of the assertions and subsequent speculation are not accurate, one thing is clear: the loss of even a single piece of archived material is heartbreaking." 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_65

He wrote that it was "completely unacceptable" that their artists did not know the details and pledged to deliver "answers". 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_66

On June 26, Kraus issued a memo to staff which detailed UMG's plan to determine which assets had been affected. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_67

A month after the story broke, Kraus issued an internal note to Universal staff, which claimed that only 22 original master recordings by five artists were lost in the fire, and backup copies had been found for each lost master. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_68

He added that UMG has been fielding requests from over 200 artists and their representatives. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_69

Kraus said his team had reviewed over 26,000 assets by 30 artists. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_70

From that sample, 424 assets (including 349 audio recordings) might have been lost due to the fire. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_71

On November 4, 2019, a lawyer representing Universal claimed the artists would receive no compensation. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_72

A February 2020 court filing by UMG confirmed that master tapes from at least 19 artists had been damaged or destroyed in the fire. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_73

The artists whom UMG confirmed as affected are Bryan Adams, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, David Baerwald, Beck, Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton, Jimmy Eat World, Elton John, Michael McDonald, Nirvana, Les Paul, R.E.M. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_74 , Slayer, Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, the Surfaris, Suzanne Vega, White Zombie, and Y&T. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_75

List of artists affected, according to The New York Times 2008 Universal Studios fire_section_4

This list is almost entirely disputed by Universal, per above. 2008 Universal Studios fire_sentence_76

See also 2008 Universal Studios fire_section_5

2008 Universal Studios fire_unordered_list_0


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008 Universal Studios fire.