Thursday, March 17, 2011

My favorite location spotting story

Yesterday’s post on location shooting unlocked a lot of memories for a lot of people. Thanks for sharing yours. I have one more story. This is my favorite.

There’s a large indoor shopping mall in West Los Angeles called the Beverly Center. Along with chain stores and a bad food court is a multi-plex theater. One afternoon, with nothing to do, Sam Simon (co-creator of THE SIMPSONS) and I decided to kill time by going to a movie.

As usual, twelve theaters – nothing good. We finally settled on VOLCANO.


VOLCANO  was a ridiculous movie that came out in 1997. Apparently a volcano erupts in Los Angeles. You’d think some geologist sometime would know that there was an active volcano brewing under a giant metropolis. When they started digging the Metrolink subway wouldn’t at least one worker say, “Y’know, it’s awfully warm down here”?

And usually volcanoes erupt out of mountains and not flat residential areas but why quibble?

So we’re watching this atrocity. There must’ve been ten other people in the theater. The volcano goes off. There’s mass panic and bad special effects. Anne Heche and Tommy Lee Jones try to save the city. Former talk show host and Oprah-wannabe, Mother Love plays “traffic cop”. The great actor, Harvey Levin even appears.

The molten lava is oozing down major streets, melting everything in its path. Storefronts are obliterated. Frozen Yogurt stands offer little resistance.

Finally, there’s a shot of the red hot lava fast approaching the Beverly Center, to which Sam cries out, “Hey! We better get out of here!”

That was maybe the biggest laugh I (and everyone else in the theater) ever had during a movie.

Location is everything.

43 comments:

Nat G said...

Sitting in the Chinese Theater, watching one of the Rush Hour movies. On the screen Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker rush into the Chinese Theater, and the urge becomes so strong to turn and see them come down the theater aisle...

Dave Bittner said...

I saw the film Tin Men at Westview Cinemas, near Baltimore. Several scenes were shot at the theater, and it was a fun moment for the audience when we all realized the theater we were sitting in was in the movie we were watching. (Sadly, the theater and drive-in are gone, replaced by a Home Depot.)

Friday Question for you, Ken - On show with kids in the cast, does everyone assume there's a built in time limit for the run of the show, since the kids will grow up and lose their cuteness? I'm thinking of Modern Family. Manny's not going be such a lovable scamp five years from now.

the same chris said...

"And usually volcanoes erupt out of mountains and not flat residential areas but why quibble? " LOL. Wow Ken, the dumbest thing you wrote as of yet. Of course do volcanos erupt from flat earth. The "mountain" that forms consists of cold magma and ashes, all material that is brought to the surface by the volcano.

Gnasche said...

When I was eleven, watching Wrath of Kahn in the theater, there's the scene where Kahn walks into the hut and catches Chekov and the other guy. Ricardo Mantelban takes off his helmet, and I yell "Smiles, everyone. Smiles". That was the biggest laugh I got at a theater, but really the only time I can remember yelling in one.

Harry said...

Bad news - the Beverly Center's movie theater closed almost a year ago.

D. McEwan said...

Watching The Wizard of Oz in a large theater in Santa Ana in 1970, a late evening performance, half-full, no kids!

At the conclusion, Dorothy clicked those ruby slippers together three times, said: "There's no place like home," the swirly effect began behind her head as Glinda waved her wand...

And the projector's arc failed, and the screen went black. Total darkness. I hollered out: "Glinda! I've gone blind!"

Huge laugh from all present.

Once, many years back, I was watching Gorge Pal's beloved movie The Time Machine, one of my favorite movies, at a revival screening in Huntington Beach. We got to the scene where he stops in London 5 minutes before it is nuked in an atomic war that wipes out civilization. The date clearly shown in lcose-up for this apocalypse is August 18, 1966.

GULP! Half the audience gasped, because we were watching it on August 17, 1966. Oh my God, the atomic holocaust is tomorrow!

D. McEwan said...

My best movie locations story: 1965. A friend of mine, now a special effects artist (He did the special effects for the original V, The Flash TV series, and worked on every Star Trek series except the first. He designed the "Voyager" starship in the TV series Star Trek: Voyager.) and a mutual pal were taking me to the home of a friend of theirs to see a movie in 16mm which I had never seen before, though both of them had.

We went through San Dimas enroute, and stopped at a little town square where my friends insisted on doing some utterly unecessary shopping, and making sure I wandered all over this town square. Then we went on to their friend's house, a couple miles away, not far at all.

The movie I saw for the first time that night was the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and to a 15 year old boy in 1965 it was damn scary, even in 16mm projected on a sheet in a garage.

And then we got to the scene where the trucks full of pods pulled up to a town square and gave them out to people to go use on family and friends in neighboring towns. Scary scene.

And of course, it was that same town square in San Dimas. It was only 9 years since the film was shot, so it still looked exactly the same as in the movie. There was a truckful of pods parked in the same spot we had been parked in two hours earlier.

This movie wasn't happening in any fictional town; it was happening JUST DOWN THE STREET!

My friends had known, of course, and taken me there deliberately, giving me no hint that we were visiting a major location in the movie I was about to see. I was ready to look under my chair for pods.

That was unsettling.

Eitan Loewenstein said...

Um, Ken. That's MY best movie location story.

I also saw Volcano in Beverly Center and made the exact same joke (there were about 10 people in the theater, maybe average for that movie and/or theater).

Was that you behind me eating popcorn loudly complaining about bad dialogue?

Tod Hunter said...

I had one of those.

I was watching "Myra Breckinridge" at the Hollywood Paramount on Hollywood Boulevard (now the El Capitan) and the credit sequence was a dance scene with Rex Reed and Raquel Welch cavorting in the courtyard of the office building next door.

I was considering going outside to watch them in person but I decided against it.

--t

YEKIMI said...

watched a John Candy movie, "Summer Rental", when it came out in 1985. I started noticing in the background several familiar looking sites. Found out it had been filmed in John's Pass & Saint Petersburg Beach an area I was very familiar with as it was around where I had grown up. We had moved to Ohio in 1970 when the old man got a job transfer, but it sure made me homesick seeing places I thought I would never see again. Finally went back in the early 80s and mid 90s and nice to see that a few places that were in the movie hadn't changed but a lot has. The barbershop where I had gotten my first hair cut back when I was 4 was still there and I found out recently that here, in 2011, it's still around.

dgwPhotography said...

I had one of those, but it's only funny now, because I embarrassed my wife just a little...

Opening night of Field Of Dreams - Ray sees Shoeless Joe out in the field... the dramatic music builds as he hits fly balls to him, and builds even more when Joe asks Ray if he can pitch.. and then, Shoeless Joe bats the wrong way...

I just yelled out, "I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY DID THAT!!!!"

YEKIMI said...

Oh as an aside, Bob Wells, who was the toady sidekick assistant to Richard Crenna in the movie was a huge local star in the Northeast Ohio area back in the 1960s and 70s, first as a weatherman and then as co-host of one of those late night midnight horror shows that were so popular back then {Hoolihan & Big Chuck}. Seeing as how he had left the area around 1979 I was surprised to see him pop up in a big national movie,; turned out he had moved to Florida around the same area I had grown up in.

Dave said...

Every time I see Blazing Saddles I wonder if the movie actually opened at the Chinese Theater. And how cool that might have been to see it there, back in the day.

Phillip B said...

In 1977 I saw "The Blues Brothers" at the venerable Chicago Theater. The house was nearly full and the audience was largely African American.

We all hooted at the extended chase scenes which took place on on seemingly random streets surrounding the Loop. And there was much audience discussion as one location popped up after another.

(Turns out everyone dreams of driving 90 miles an hour on lower Wacker Drive).

As the police cars piled up under the El tracks on the screen there was suddenly the sound of a dozen or more sirens outside the theater.

After a pause, the audience laughed and applauded. It had to be a coincidence, right?

Karen said...

The opening scene of "What the #$*! Do We (K)now!?" takes place inside the Bagdad Theater in Portland, Oregon, which is exactly where we saw it.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

The Volcano trailer is one of the first movie trailers I saw on the internet, back in 1996.

I recall Fox hyped that film as one of the greatest movie spectacles of all time (I wouldn't give that trailer nearly as much attention nowadays, given how formulaic trailers have become.

I was pumped up to see it anyway. One of the biggest disappointments of the 1990's.

Most of my movie location memories are NY related though, most notably one during a snowy night when ate, for the first time, at Serendipity.

Charles H. Bryan said...

Nothing like watching Michael Moore's ROGER & ME while living in Flint, Michigan. Not only did I recognize places, but I recognized people. I worked with some of them a few years after the film came out; they generally were not happy about their screen debuts.

However, the movie's depiction of Flint was petty accurate.

Josie said...

I missed the fun yesterday, but growing up next to Torrance when Buffy was on the air was a good bit of fun. I was in the wrong district so I couldn't go to Sunnydale High, but boy how I wanted to. I still take friends in town for the first time to see Buffy's High School and Buffy's House. I love the look on their faces as it all becomes real to them.

Mike Doran said...

Not a location story, but this is my favorite shout-out during a movie.

House Of Dark Shadows, based on the vampire soap opera, played at the Roosevelt Theatre in downtown Chicago (now defunct) in November 1970.

There was a hotly contested election that year for the Presidency of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, between the Democratic incumbent George Dunne (whose son Murphy Dunne played keyboards in both Blues Brothers movies) and Republican Sheriff Joe Woods (whose sister Rosemary Wods became famous a couple of years later for something else).

Woods ran a series of campaign commercials that were filmed in Hollywood (I recognized some of the actors), that showed complaining about something that the County Board was or wasn't doing and then out would come Sheriff Joe, booming out in his drawling buzzsaw voice that he would indeed do something.

Anyway, in tht Dark Shadows movie, there was a scene common to all vampire flicks, where the family gathers at the big house and somebody wonders aloud whether anybody's going to do something.
And at that moment someone in the audience (I wish it had been me) yelled:
"I'm Joe Woods! 'Lect me President of the Cook County Board an' Ah'll do somethin' about vampahrs!"

Well, I laughed, anyway ...

Breadbaker said...

I watched The Paper Chase inside Harkness Commons, the dining hall at Harvard Law School. In one scene, we were looking at the screen at a scene occurring in the exact room we were in.

RockGolf said...

1978. Opening night of the wretched Bee Gees-Peter Frampton film Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I watch the first showing. I'm not impressed. However, the shows are so close together that people are coming in for the second show during the first show's credits.
So I stick around.
Second show. Peter Frampton performs his first song. "What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?
I stand up in the crowded theater and as loud as I can say "YES!", then leave.
Biggest laugh I ever got in my life.

Larry said...

I've been in Hollywood theatres to watch Speed and Hancock, both of which have scenes that take place on Hollywood Boulevard. I also was just outside the Miracle Mile when I saw the film Miracle Mile, most of which takes places in and around the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire. In fact, a lot of it was shot at everyone's favorite movie location, Johnnie's coffee shop. Very late spoiler: it's destroyed by a nuclear holocaust at the end.

The biggest laugh I ever got in a theatre was at a showing of Eyes Wide Shut at the Chinese. It was after that lengthy, bizarre sequence where Tom Cruise puts on a mask and attends a weird sex party of the rich and powerful, and is kicked out. He returns to his apartment where he lives with Nicole Kidman, and when he opened the door I shouted, in my Father Knows Best voice, "Honey, I'm home!" Maybe you had to be there.

John said...

Volcano erupts out of cornfield in Mexico in 1943.

It was the middle of World War II. I blame the Nazis.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I also saw "Rush Hour" at the Chinese Theater.

Packed house. When the movie cut to the exterior shot of the theater, the audience EXPLODED into applause!

Unfortunately, my attempt to similarly rouse the handful of Culver City patrons when our theater was depicted in "No Strings Attached" yielded only snores.

Or maybe that was just the movie...

-Garrett

YEKIMI said...

I remember watching that incredibly atrocious movie "Showgirls" and one scene had a couple of guys sitting stage side while one of the girls is dancing nude when she basically shoves her crotch in one guys face. The look on the guys face just caused me to yell out "Hey, I didn't order the fish!" The few people that hadn't walked out laughed pretty hard. For myself, I was just embarrassed because I HATE people that yell out stuff during movies ["Rocky Horror: excepted]. It was totally out of character for me to do so, I can only blame it on a self defense mechanism because that movie was AWFUL!

Anonymous said...

Not a movie location story but an issue of timing. Against every fibre of my being I went to see my first and only opera. My view is if an opera doesn't star Elmer Fudd, like who cares? Anyway, during it the Gods rail against man and I think it's Zeus, or some guy who spoke Italian with super titles, makes some comment about attacking mankind. Suddenly, there a loud thunderous clap and the theater shakes, and I'm assuming it's surround sound special effects. Nope. An earthquake hit at precisely that moment.

Leslie said...

When I was in high school I heard that a movie was being shot in my central California hometown (Turlock) which was only 10 minutes to the south of Modesto - hometown of George Lucas and the setting for American Graffiti. Now, I've never seen American Graffiti, but when that movie came on Fox (I think it was maybe called Pink Lightening??) I knew immediately that it must have been a cheap knock-off. I recognized one location - a park that my family went to on a frequent basis. I was rather disappointed.

But hey - Foster Farms filmed a commercial in Turlock too - that was always fun to watch.

Now, every once in awhile if I catch a Walker, Texas Ranger episode I try to see what I can recognize :D

D. McEwan said...

I attended a college campus (Cal State University, Long Beach) screening of George Pal's War of the Worlds at which both Pal and the director, Byron Haskin, spoke and took questions from the audience before the show. (The director said they had gotten Gene Barry "just before he learned to act.")

When the Martians blew up Los Angeles City Hall, the entire audience of rebellious, 1960s collge kids - like me then -cheered wildly and applauded.

Back in the early 1970s, the universal ampitheater was an outdoors theater. One summer they held film marathons there. One night I watched Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy and The Wolfman on the very lot where they were shot. In one scene in Frankenstein, the hills behind the monster were the same hills we could see behind and above the outdoor screen. Of course, the whole point of going was to see them where they had been shot, but still, seeing the monster on the screen, and the same backdrop, only real, behind the screen brought it home. The Monster lived HERE!

Matt Patton said...

A couple more second-hand stories of location shooting. One involved a movie called Sin in The Suburbs, one of those "Adults Only" epics. This one was shot in the New Jeersey suburb where one of my bosses recalled festering to adulthood. The producers rented four or five houses in the neighborhood and shot mostly during the morning and early afternoon, when the kids were at school. My boss was sick during one day of the shooting schedule and watched from her living room window as an important scene (the reaction of the heroine's daughter to catching her in a foursome) was being shot. The actress came tearing out of the house, crying and stumbling and seemingly in great emotional agony. She apparently nailed it right then, and her agony disappeared into the ether. My boss said that was the day she realized that actors are somewhat different from regular citizens. When the movie opened in New York early in 1964 at a theater in Times Square, a couple of men from the neighborhood who worked in Manhattan went to see it. They came back and said it was actually a pretty good movie. Out of curiosity, I bought a DVD of the film, and as these things go, it isn't bad. The leading actress, Audrey Campbell is quite good, in fact.

Relatives of one of our neighbors lived in Land O'Lakes, where the exteriors for the neighborhood in Edward Scissorhands were shot. By all accounts, it was a very enjoyable experience, even if the houses were all re-painted to make them look as drab as possible and they were all refitted with ugly little windows on the orders of the production designer. Needless to say, everybody got a nice new coat of paint courtesy of the film company after the shooting was over.

cshel said...

Ken -

That was hilarious!

Two volcano movies came out at the same time and they were both horrible.

John Trumbull said...

A bunch of my friends & I went to go see the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez movie FROM DUSK TO DAWN when it came out in the mid 90s. As you might remember, it involved a strip club where all the staff were really vampires.

Towards the end of the movie, after lasting the entire night in a locked-up club filled with vampires, George Clooney & company manage to break through some of the boarded-up windows, letting the sunlight from outside stream through the cracks. The sunlight reflected off the mirror balls hanging from the ceiling, forcing the vampires to burn up and explode. When this happened, my friend immediately started singing, "Burn, Baby, Burn, Disco Inferno!" I realized what he was doing inside of a syllable and joined in. By the end of the lyric, the entire first two rows were singing it. :)

Cap'n Bob said...

Army post theater, 1966. Watching some dreary haunted house movie. There's a shot of a door frame and suddenly a gnarled hand grabs it. Some guy up front lets out a loud, blood-curdling scream. Everyone laughed and it was the best moment of the show.

estiv said...

The one that got away.

When Lindsay Anderson died in 1994 I was in college, and the on-campus film society did a retrospective of films he had directed. This Sporting Life from 1963 starred Richard Harris, who went on to have a solid career as an actor, a substantial reputation as a brawling drunkard (till he dried out), became a “singer,” was the original Dumbledore, and fathered the English guy on Mad Men. The movie was a heavy drama. At one point Richard Harris's character is asked to sing, stands up, and takes a few seconds to prepare himself. The theater was packed and everyone was silent, waiting. I realized my opportunity, then thought, “We're here to honor the work of a great but under-appreciated filmmaker, and I'll get a great laugh but totally ruin the mood.” In retrospect, I was wrong. Until my dying day I will bitterly regret not having the nerve to shout out “MACARTHUR PARK!”

Bert said...

My favorite surreal moment... Watching "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" in the movie theater of the old Sherman Oaks Galleria. A section of the movie is filmed there. A key character is a ticker-tacker at that theater. Several of the fast-food places in the food court right there are also shown.

So, after the movie lets out we want out of the theater, and, essentially, onto the set!


Something I'll never forget...

Bert said...

Extremely surreal experience:

I go to watch "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" at the movie theater inside the old Sherman Oaks Galleria. Several sections of the movie are shot there, including the main character as a ticket taker at the theater, the pizza place, burger place food court immediately outside the theater. So, after the movie lets out, we essentially walk onto the set. Very wild.

By the way, this is the same theater where I saw U2: Rattle and Hum in a test version, and during a personal bathroom break noticed the band in the back row.

Really nice memories of that now lost theater...

Bert said...

Extremely surreal experience:

I go to watch "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" at the movie theater inside the old Sherman Oaks Galleria. Several sections of the movie are shot there, including the main character as a ticket taker at the theater, the pizza place, burger place food court immediately outside the theater. So, after the movie lets out, we essentially walk onto the set. Very wild.

By the way, this is the same theater where I saw U2: Rattle and Hum in a test version, and during a personal bathroom break noticed the band in the back row.

Really nice memories of that now lost theater...

Bob Eubanks said...

You know what, I have a pretty good description of that fat bastard Michael Moore in my book...

Charles H. Bryan said...

@Bob Eubanks

I have to ask: Mr. Eubanks, what's the strangest place anyone's ever read your book?

Paul V. said...

This a little different, but still. They filmed parts of The Devil's Own in my town. Harrison Ford, Brad Pitt, every girl in town went nuts. One morning I woke up and my street was full of trucks. I ambled around, and somebody with a headset if Harrison Ford was around.

Yeah, she said, he's up there by that tree.

It was the tree on my front lawn. I'm standing there, saying to myself, Han Solo is on my front lawn.

Location, location, location. (He was a very nice guy by the way. Can't believe he fried poor Greedo like that.)

Paul V. said...

This is the story I meant to tell, before I remembered that Harrison Ford story.

One summer went to visit my college roommate, who lived in Honolulu. One night we're sitting around watching a rerun of Magnum PI (very popular in Hawaii you can imagine) and during the mandatory car chase, Magnum chases the bad guy right up my buddy's street. Even my buddy got excited seeing that. We wanted to go to the window and see them speed by.

D. McEwan said...

Paul, Harrison Ford on your front lawn can not be topped in this life. The closest I ever came was on my 30th birthday. I was cleaning my apartment for the party, and I saw Mort Sahl on my driveway. Turned out he was looking for the house next door where a friend of his lived. But Harrison Ford trumps Mort Sahl by a light-year. (Later that same night, I met Steve Martin, but that was at The Comedy Store, where I worked at the time, so it was hardly unsual. Still, Mort Sahl and Steeve Martin the sme day, there ws some kinda comedy kharma going on)

Daws Butler was a guest in my home a couple times, but Daws was a personal friend of mine, so he doesn't really count either.

Johnny Walker said...

I remember watching The Hurt Locker for the first time here in London. I'd spent the entire film in a state of adrenalin-pumping panic (I was one of the people who was later happy to see it win big at the Oscars).

The credits were rolling and I was just beginning to unclench all the muscles in my body, when three scary-looking security guards walked in, and pushed their way through the exiting crowd.

These weren't the teenage ushers looking to pick up candy-wrappers and spilt popcorn before the next performance, they were tough-looking guys, with shaven heads and big physiques. Not unlike, say, an average member of the US Military.

They weren't a few feet away from me when my jaw dropped at the unlikeliness of what I saw next: They took out powerful torches and began systematically scanning the rows of seats.

I couldn't see anyone with them saying, "I lost my purse" or "I was just sitting here". They didn't engage with any of the people leaving the cinema. If anything they were rude and made no attempt to get out their way.

They were men on a mission, who were also giving me an unlikely live-action re-enactment of what I'd just spent 90 minutes feeling glad I didn't experience on a daily basis.

It was so bizarre, so unreal, that I could just about believe that some fringe "shock" theater group was behind the experience.

I mean, when does that ever happen when you watch a film??

I almost ran out the cinema, but a more rational part of my brain kicked in, and I sat there, enjoying the experience like a roller-coaster than might actually explode at any moment.

I'm sure it was probably a missing purse or something humdrum, but these guys dealt with it like they were searching for a bomb. After what I'd just spend 90 minutes enduring, it was phenomenal timing.

Johnny Walker said...

Please note: That was not a location spotting story. Sorry.