How 10 Famous Movie Locations Celebrate Their Film Heritage
In some cities, films crews are as commonplace as gridlock. (Yes, we’re talking about YOU, New York and Los Angeles.) But for others, particularly small towns, serving as the setting for a movie can be a defining moment.
Honestly, were you aware of Burkittsville, MD before the Blair Witch stomped through? Nobody could find Preston, ID on a map before Napoleon Dynamite brought down the house with his moon boot dance. And Forks, WA? Before vampires and werewolves moved in, they were more known for their ample trout fishing than any sort of Hollywood prestige.
In our roundup below, we explore how several locations celebrate their famous film heritage (and give one example of a town that would just like to forget it). So, gas up the car now and start planning your next road trip.
‘Rocky’ — The Philadelphia Museum of Art
For fans of the ‘Rocky’ films, nothing’s more iconic than the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the Italian Stallion himself trained. In 1982 during the filming of ‘Rocky III,’ Sylvester Stallone commissioned artist A. Thomas Schomberg to create several statues of the titular hero, one of which was placed on the museum’s steps. Later, the sculpture was moved several times as the museum and Philidelphia’s Art Commission squabbled over whether it qualified as art. Ultimately, the sculpture found its way back to the museum and it remains there today as a popular tourist attraction.
‘The Shining’ — The Timberline Lodge
In 2008, Nike and film festival Fantastic Fest collaborated on a Halloween celebration at the Timberline Lodge, which was used to represent the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 creepfest ‘The Shining.’ Attendees were encouraged to wear 1920s formal attire, catch a midnight screening of the film and — gulp! — stay overnight at the hotel if they chose. Oh yeah, right. Sounds like fun. Until a river of blood erupts from the elevator.
‘Twilight’ — Forks, Washington
For Twihards, the town of Forks, Washington, where ‘Twilight’ takes place, is the rough equivalent of the Holy Land. Fans from all over the world regularly make the pilgrimage to the small town, and its residents have been quick to cash in on the hype. There are ‘Twilight’ tours as well as a multitude of storefronts offering vampire-themed tchotchkes like t-shirts and bumper stickers. The local high school (pictured left) even has dedicated lockers set aside for characters Edward and Bella.
‘The Blair Witch Project’ — Burkittsville, Maryland
If Forks is eager to cash in on its movie fame, Burkittsville, MD, which was the setting for ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ is exactly the opposite. After the film became a hit in 1999, gaggles of tourists descended on the small town of 180 people, snarled traffic, vandalized gravestones and stole signs. To this day, the town still struggles to distance itself from the horror film which made it famous. “Please understand,” says the town’s official website, “while the town of Burkittsville is real, the movie is just that, a movie. The legend is a fake.” Okay, okay. We get it. But we still think the Blair Witch is around there somewhere.
‘Napoleon Dynamite’ — Preston, Idaho
For several years after the release of ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ in 2004, the town of Preston, ID, where the film takes place, held movie-themed events like a tetherball tournament, Tater Tot eating contest and moon boot dance. Additionally, the film increased the town’s tourist trade significantly. In 2005, the Idaho legislature approved a measure commending the film for the benefits it brought to the state. Not bad for an indie flick filmed on a shoestring budget of $400,000.
‘Night of the Living Dead’ — Evans City, Pennsylvania
‘Night of the Living Dead’ may have been a watershed in zombie movies, but the Evans City, Pennsylvania locations used in the film have seen better days. The ramshackle clapboard house where most of the film took place was torn down shortly after filming and only the Evans City Cemetery Chapel, which appears in the movie’s opening scene, remains. Gary Streiner, who worked as a sound engineer on the movie, wants to change that. Streiner has been holding local movie-themed events, like the aptly named “Eat Your Heart Out Zombie Valentine’s Day Dance,” in order to raise money for repairs.
‘Blue Velvet’ — Wilmington, North Carolina
In 2011, the Cucalorus Film Festival honored the 25th anniversary of David Lynch’s cult classic ‘Blue Velvet’ in the town of Wilmington, North Carolina where it was filmed. A collection of props and memorabilia, including nearly 1,000 black-and-white images taken during the making of the film, were put on display at the former apartment of the late Dennis Hopper, who played amyl nitrate-huffing antagonist Frank Booth. And, awesomely, one of the blue velvet robes that Isabella Rossellini wore during the production was on display as well.
‘Harry Potter’ — Alnwick Castle
The Harry Potter attraction at Universal may do a commendable job of immersing you in the “wizarding world,” but Alnwick Castle in the U.K. is the real deal– the majestic castle served as a stand-in for the exterior and interior of Hogwarts in the ‘Potter’ films. Every few weeks, Harry Potter-inspired characters can be found roaming Alnwick’s grounds much to the delight of tourists.
‘Star Wars’ — Hotel Sidi Driss
Although it looks otherworldy, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s Tatooine homestead from ‘Star Wars’ is very much a real place. Located in Tunisia, the Hotel Sidi Driss was used in the original 1977 ‘Star Wars’ as well as the prequels. To mark its use in the movies, the hotel, which is open to visitors year-round, even retained some of the decorations used during filming. Sounds like a nice place, but watch out for Bantha poodoo.
‘The Goonies’ — Astoria, Oregon
In 2010, the town of Astoria in Oregon, which was featured prominently in ‘The Goonies,’ celebrated the 25th anniversary of the classic film by offering bus tours of movie locations, a VIP dinner with several cast members (Corey Feldman!) and a concert. The town continues to celebrate the movie each year on June 7th, which was declared “Official Goonies Day” by the mayor of Astoria. Meanwhile, One-Eyed Willy’s treasure still remains lost.