Starbucks at Universal Studios Hollywood Inspired by History of Tinseltown

Universal Studios is one of Hollywood’s oldest and most legendary working film studios. It first opened in 1915 in the era of silent films and grew to become one of the largest studios in the world. Huge sound stages sprung up with the “talkies” in the 1930s, and its back lot set the scene for such films as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Back to the Future,” “Psycho” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It has also become one of the country’s largest tourist attractions with a theme park and behind-the-scenes tours.

A century later, Universal Studios has created a new main street to welcome visitors into the park lined with shopping, dining and retail venues.

In the heart of the new Universal Boulevard is a 5,000-square-foot store inspired by the history of Tinseltown movies and culture.

“We wanted to provide a sense of entertainment,” said Starbucks designer Erich Mele. “The design allows us to serve large groups of people while still providing areas of intimacy so you can relax and take in the atmosphere.”

From the exterior, the façade is broken up into multiple buildings, as if it had originally been the site of several small shops. On the interior, it is one grand space. A banquette made of reclaimed black walnut wood curves like a siren’s tale, creating eddies that can be a comfortable place to sit.

Custom art installations weave in a sense of theater. The focal point is a mural that has the look of an old-time film projector and depicts a coffee roasting machine against the skyline of Los Angeles. Backlit glass above the bar gives the illusion of exterior factory windows looking out to the setting sun. At the end of the bar is a three-dimensional map of the world that illustrates where coffee is grown.

Designers chose a neutral color palate, while materials juxtapose the raw with the refined. Painted black steel amplifies the industrial nature of the building while brass fasteners add a sparkle and sophistication that harkens back to the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s.

“The walls in the interior are a beige plaster with a beautiful depth and texture,” Mele said. “An artist painted tropical flora and fauna in contrasting coffee colors to give it a handcrafted feeling.”

One last subtle nod to the Starbucks Siren can be found on the floor with a scalloped pattern on the polished concrete along the perimeter of the café and bar area. “The scale pattern is fluid, and offers a sense of detail that allows people to stop and appreciate,” he said.

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How Starbucks partners help create change, one community at a time, with Neighborhood Grants