Airport ‘77 - Screen Test Theater
In 1977, video technology was relatively new and the thrill of seeing scenes played back just after watching them ‘Live’ was a very real one. Universal Studios Hollywood’s new theme attraction was a video recording studio titled “Screen Test Theater” and it featured Hollywood’s latest blockbuster, “Airport ’77”. The stage consisted of five areas: an exit door above a water tank, a staff only section inside the cabin, a section of the exterior of a jumbo jet which lifted up to reveal the passenger cabin, the air-traffic control tower, and the front of the plane including the flight deck.
Survive the Crash of A Jumbo Jet
The studio audience was selected in great numbers to fill all the roles of the short 3-minute video. The ramp leading up to the stage was designed as the airplane’s wing and members of the studio audience boarded over the wing ramp. Some of the chosen passengers were taken backstage where they were fitted with uniforms to fit their character roles while the cabin passengers remained in the main cabin.
The director had them practice once and then the main footage was then recorded. Below are two complete videos from a couple of audience members.
The current SHREK theater attraction is where the Screen Test Theater was originally located. It was an open-air amphitheater and was later remodeled and is now fully covered.
After the recording and show, the participating audience received a VHS tape recording. Good thing they weren’t handing out Beta tapes 😉
For our special Screen Test Theatre sound stage, Universal has recreated five of the sets used in “Airport ’77,” one of their blockbuster major films. If you’re selected from the audience, you are assigned a part, costumed and rehearsed for your big break in the movies. Live videotape cameras roll as you re-enact scenes from the movie, including a terrifying crash and thrilling underwater rescue. The whole adventure is taped by the Screen Test cameras. Then, you see yourself in action on the television monitors, only minutes after the director says “Cut! Print!.”
From “Inside Universal Studios”, 1979
“Tour guests see themselves in exciting sequences which include a flooded cargo hold of a jumbo jet, a passenger cabin that rocks and shakes, and finally a jump to safety into a tank of water representing the mysterious and treacherous waters of the Devil’s Triangle!”
From “Universal Studios Shows and Special Effects” – Viewmaster K74, 1979 (theStudioTour.com)