This Day In History: June 1

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On June 1, 2008, a massive, early morning fire at the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park and studio backlot in Universal City, California destroys a trove of irreplaceable recordings by some of the greatest musical artists in American history, thousands of archived digital and video film copies and King Kong Encounter, one of the park’s most popular attractions. The fire caused no serious injuries, but artists and others mourned the loss of cultural treasure.

An investigation revealed the three-alarm fire began when a worker used a blowtorch to warm asphalt shingles. The worker left before checking if all spots had cooled.

In 2019, in a story that shook the music industry, the New York Times reported that anywhere from 120,000 to 175,000 master recordings—including those by Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin—were destroyed in the fire. Universal said the story exaggerated the extent of the damage.

In 2020, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by musicians and estates against Universal that argued the company had been negligent in protecting their recordings.

In 2010, Universal opened a new King Kong attraction on the site.