BIFF’S CASINO STAIRWAY Filming Location from “Back to the Future” part II
WE FOUND IT! That’s right, the holy grail of Back to the Future filming locations! For YEARS people searched for this sweet spot and couldn’t find it. When we first published it on the site in 2007, it got blasted all over the internet, and no matter how much we politely requested a link back, we didn’t get it. But that’s ok. After a lot of therapy we finally managed to leave the basement and stash away our mason jars full of urine, and get back to running this site.
The year is 1985. The timeline: alternate. Marty McFly has finally confronted freaky pimp-daddy alter-Biff in his sweet suite on the 27th floor of Biff’s Casino, and dashed into the stairwell to make his escape. He heads down stairs, then hops up on and intertwining staircase and makes his way up to the roof. I don’t know about you, but as a kid this scene was one of my favorites. It’s the classic switcheroo.
If you just want the galleries and location scroll down because this one takes a little back story, but I promise if you stick with me, it’s worth reading about how we finally found this place.
I’d been visiting the Back to the Future filming locations for years and it had honestly never even occured to me that this stairway might exist outside of a soundstage. With my old partner (who sadly passed away in a freak accident involving comic books and gasoline) we started bttftour.com as an easy place to publish a bunch of locations that were not available online. Luckily, to aid our quest, Michael J Burmeister, Location manager from parts II and III bequethed his locations list to us back in the early 00s and we were able to find several missing pieces of the BTTF puzzle and share them with all our friends via the internets.
After I had found and visited all the BTTF locations I’d ever hoped to see, I thought the quest was over. One thing kept bugging me though. On one of the lists Mr. Burmeister had sent over, was a listing for “Paradise Casino stairs, The Registry Hotel.” I knew that Paradise Casino was Biff’s casino because the roof was listed above as well. Both addresses were for Universal Studios itself, but the strange part was that the Casino Roof was clearly listed as the roof of the BattleStar Galactica show building (that would ironically later become Back to the Future.. The Ride) and the stairwell said Registry Hotel.
Of course, there’s no registry hotel at Universal Studios Hollywood. But suddenly the clouds of idiocy parted and it dawned on me that maybe THE UNIVERSAL CITY HILTON, Built on the Hill outside the gate at Universal Studios, used to be the Registry hotel!!! Five seconds of googling provided the proof. GREAT SCOTT! We had the address, we had the info, everything was set!! At long last Back to the Future fans everywhere would get a shot at visiting Biff’s Casino!!!!
Stick with me, because this is where the fun begins.
Sometime in the fall of 2005 I swung by Universal. I boldly parked my giant spray-painted van (it looked like this) out front, walked into the hotel, and asked if I could look in the stairway. This wasn’t my first rodeo. I know that’s the dumbest possible thing you can do when looking for a filming location. Maybe I was hung over, I don’t know. All I know is that the suits running the counter seemed personally offended that I wanted to see their stairs, and had two giant, bald, ear-piece wearing, gorilla-faced thugs basically push me out of the building. “That’s cool bros,” I thought, “Time is on my side. I’ll come back later.”
One week later I tried my luck again, this time I figured I’d approach from the rear and enter via the underground parking garage instead of the lobby. Alas! My common sense was turned off again that day, the Van was too tall, and when it inevitably bumped against the height-limit warning bar it set off the loudest alarm I have ever heard in my entire life. I kid you not, this thing literally sounded like one of those submarine alarms from The Hunt for the Red October or the bridge of the Starship Enterprise after some rogue Klingons show up. I could barely hear him over the alarm, but the bald, earpiece wearing, badly sunburned security guard either screamed something about making love to me, or hurting me really badly. I didn’t stick around to find out, and after that experience, I didn’t come back til the fall of 2006.
Dressed to the nines and driving my Mom’s new explorer, I boldly entered via the lobby. After going up the elevator and getting in the only stairwell, I was stoked! Easy! We go all the way up, and we’ll see the spot! We were so stoked to see the right kind of railing, the right kind of doors, the right kind of steps! But when we got to the top, something was dreadfully wrong. Somehow, we couldn’t reenact the scene and hop between stairways.. and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. There were TWO stairways in that scene.. and each set went to the same floor.. how is that possible? Who would build that!? Dismayed, I searched every stairwell in the hotel to no avail and left again in defeat.
Maybe it was a set piece after all, because the architecture made no sense. Who would build two staircases in the same stairwell… but no! On hearing of my woes, a very wise man named Greg instantly pointed out that often such stairways are seen in Parking garages where the bottom and top doors on each stairwell lead to different places. As Marty would say, “Holy Shit!” I forgot to check the Parking Garage!
SO on Valentine’s day 2007 we left Orange County again. Armed with the digital camera and 4 gallons of Gas, we paid the very steep (for 2007) parking garage fee of $4.00/hr, and drove down to “P3.” – After checking every stairwell, we FINALLY found it! It’s on the wall that faces outwards, to the Northwest. In it are two stairwells with two stairways apiece inside of them. You’re looking for the one on your left, towards the freeway. It’s confusing and you’ll probably need to print a photo from this site to make sure you aren’t in the other staircase, which is mirror image to this one.
Finally I was able to live out my childhood dream and jump the banister while my friend ran down in the other direction fruitlessly searching for me. We leapt out the door to the “roof” and reenacted the confrontation scene with Biff. It was a glorious, sexy day that will live in infamy for all time.
It’s still there, and other than paint it hasn’t changed a BIT. Keep in mind that if you visit there’s still a ton of ape-brained muscly armed security and douchey, unfriendly staff ready to hate on visitors. BUT the loophole is if you pay for parking, you pay for the right to use the damn stairwell. LAWYERED. So go forth, Back to the Future fans! Get in Biff’s stairwell and jump around. The only and thing that could make it better would be these, but trust me, still pretty satisfying.
Up until recently, to reiterate, this was the only website to EVER publish it’s location. It would be pretty cool to have a link back here if you publish it. As you just read, it took a lot of sleuthing to hunt the right one – the epilogue to the story is that they saw us coming out of the stairwell and threatened to have us arrested if we didn’t delete the pictures, claiming that we could be taking them for “terrorist reasons.” Luckily, we paid to park in that garage, and they couldn’t do much. Ok, enough of all this, enjoy the pictures we’re proud to present to you! (More coming ridiculously soon)
ADDRESS: 555 UNIVERSAL TERRACE PKWY, UNIVERSAL CITY, CA
GPS COORDINATES: +34.105691, -118.141549