The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, is starting to resemble “Tinseltown” in that it is now the home-base to hundreds of acclaimed movies that have been filmed right here in the “Steel City”, and along with that comes the thousands of movie stars that have temporarily made the ‘Burgh’ their home in order to make those big screen masterpieces come to life. Using the city of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas to make movies comes as no surprise when you consider the multitude of spectacular city sites and backdrops that Pittsburgh has to offer, along with the fact that the city is home to the world’s first movie theater, the Nickelodeon. Opened by Harry Davis and John P. Harris in 1905, the one-hundred seat theater was located at Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
Since that time Pittsburgh has become a large contributor in the film exchange with major film executives from Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Universal, Columbia Pictures, and United Artists all having screening rooms, offices and libraries available to use as needed by the motion picture industry for filming. No longer in use since the 1950s, the historical Paramount Building, located at the Boulevard of the Allies is still intact and considered a large piece of Pittsburgh’s history and involvement in the film and entertainment industry. For budget seeking movie executives it was a no-brainer to make movies in the steel city when looking into Pittsburgh’s long history of successful labor unions and the city’s access to the old steel mill’s 300,000 square-foot facility on 31st Street, located at the center of the action packed Strip-District that is now currently being used as a production company with a fully equipped sound-stage.
Other benefits for filming in Pittsburgh include a host of skilled labor unions, a hefty film tax credit and support from local businesses. These perks have enticed film makers to look at Pittsburgh as the new Tinseltown and take advantage of the local resources available, and Pittsburghers are excited about the prospect of having more and more movie stars on site which brings a boom to the economy along with a mass amount of job openings that includes the need for crew members, photographers, writers, musicians, dancers, security, and extras. According to Entertainment Weekly, the film industry has secured Pittsburgh with over $100 million in revenue from the kickback from several motion pictures now under their belt in just a few years, and the steel city has now declared itself the new Hollywood of the east.
A Brief Synopsis, Filmography and Set Locations for Movies Filmed in Pittsburgh
1899: The Heroes of Luzon is black & white documentary covering the the Tenth Regiment from the National Guard. The reserve military force was mustered into the United States service in Gretna, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1898. In the documentary, the city of Pittsburgh welcomes the group back home from their duties in Manilla in a high-spirited reception.
1904: Westinghouse releases a series of twenty-nine films demonstrating manufacturing and other components necessary for the operation of machinery. The films were shown to enthusiastic crowds at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and are now a part of the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.
1914: The Perils of Pauline, starring Pearl White, silently depicts the classic damsel in distress as she is tormented by various assailants from Native Americans to pirates and other villains in a weekly serial. Pauline never failed to escape danger despite the fact that it appeared that she was about to face a certain death. Her resourceful nature was often the determining factor that played in her escaping evil consequences. The Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation due to it’s aesthetic, historical and cultural significance. The famous railroad scenes where Pauline is tied to the tracks is merely an association to the damsel in distress, but never actually took place. Filming of the Perils of Pauline took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but the famous scene where Pauline runs along the top of a moving train was shot in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. http://www.amusementparknostalgia.net/indpp.html
1924: Ford Motor Companies very own silent film gives America an introduction to the 10-millionth Model-T during a road-trip tour along the historical Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco as dignitaries and politicians greeted Henry Ford’s 22-horse power “Tin-Lizzie” along the way.
1939: John Wayne stars as a local adventurer in Allegheny Uprising, a classic movie filled with events that depicts colonists showing their disapproval for English government. Rum and weapons are hidden among military paraphernalia in supply trains in an effort to trade with the local Native Americans. John Wayne poses as an Indian so that he and his female accomplice can intercept the train. Rebellion towards authority sets off a collision course that cannot be ignored as colonists are sent to jail without trial. Film locations for this movie included Sherwood Forest, California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
1947: The Unconquered, starring American Educator, Helen Keller, is a biographical documentary that gives personal accounts of her life and struggles to communicate despite being deaf and blind, an affliction that occurred after Helen fell ill as a toddler in 1882. Helen’s story is narrated in the documentary by her friend, actress Katharine Cornell. Most of the documentary was filmed in Pittsburgh, and in 1955 Helen Keller’s life story won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
1951: Angels in the Outfield, a classic American comedy starring Janet Leigh. The movie was filmed partially at the Pittsburgh Pirate’s home field and is about a group of angels who come to the rescue of a failing baseball team after a female reporter blames the corrupt manager for the team’s losing streak. He begins to hear voices from angels promising to help the team if he is willing to reinvent himself into a nicer person.
1968: Night of the Living Dead: Film director and Pittsburgh native, George Romero gives flesh eating zombies a job to do. Eat the flesh of Pittsburghers. After visiting their father’s grave at the Evans City Cemetery on Franklin Road, Johnny and Barbara are visited by the dead, who just happen to have an insatiable appetite for human body parts. Johnny is killed by the zombies, but Barbara manages to elude them by escaping to an old farmhouse filled with freaked out humans that are on the night’s menu as the main course.
1978: The Deer Hunter is aptly named due to a group of friends that enjoy the sport of deer hunting, but their lives change in ways they could have never imagined due to the effects of the prolonged struggle of war. DeNiro desires the trophy buck, but after getting drafted into the Vietnam War and tested with games of Russian Roulette and the loss of life, his views change dramatically. The movie is intense and raw. The deepest horrors of the Vietnam War along with working class steel workers are also portrayed in this dramatic film starring Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep, Chritopher Walken, and John Savage. A trip through Vietnam leaves the war vet’s permanently scarred after they are held hostage by Vietcong soldiers wanting to play deadly games of Russian Roulette. One of the soldiers just can’t get past the killings and the sick game of Russian Roulette and eventually loses his life to the madness of the game. Mike played by Robert DeNiro, returns home to Clairton and hooks up with Nick’s ex-girlfriend Linda, who is played by Meryl Streep. A gathering with the Saigon survivors is held at a funeral breakfast in the City of Prayer aka Clairton, and is commenced with the group belting out “God Bless America”. The movie was filmed in Clairton, Pennsylvania, home to USS Steel-Clairton Works which sits along the bank of the Monongahela River.
1983: Jennifer Beals appearance in the movie Flashdance demonstrates to viewers just how sexy and talented a welder can be while working under hot and laborious circumstances. The actress playing the part of the feisty welder by day and flash dancer by night show’s us her talented and electrifying ballet moves while singer Irene Cara blasts us with that iconic dance song “What a Feeling”, and if you could move like Alex Owens aka Jennifer Beals, you might just understand what the dancer by night trying to tell us through expression. A few key locations from the movie include: Alex riding her bicycle down James Street past Allegheny Hospital at the beginning of the movie and the steel mill featured in the movie was shot in nearby Homestead, Pennsylvania. The popular Duquesne Incline shown in the first scene of Flashdance is located on Grandview Avenue in Mount Washington, which overlooks the city of Pittsburgh. Alex dines on lobster at the Grand Concourse located at Station Square and her iconic dance scene where she runs through the Hall of Sculpture was shot in the Carnegie Institute on Forbes Avenue. http://www.fast-rewind.com/locations_flshdance.htm
1988: Pittsburgh native Michael Keaton whose real name is Michael John Douglas, made being dead funny when he starred as Beetlejuice in the movie with the same name. Obnoxious, smelly and downright hilarious antics carry on from start to finish in this ghostly comedy. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play the parts of Adam and Barbara Maitland, who have are now deceased after an auto accident takes their life. Lydia, played by Wynona Ryder plays the part of Lydia, daughter of the Deetz’s, who move into the Maitland’s home. Supernatural events and an exorcism take place after the Maitland’s hire Beetlejuice, who Lydia is able to see. The morbid behavior of the smelly ghost who wreaks havoc everywhere he goes keeps viewers in stitches. Although Beetlejuice was filmed in East Corinth, Vermont, the star of the show hails from Pittsburgh, making Beetlejuice an important part of Pittsburgh’s line-up of movie choices.
1993: In the movie Striking Distance, a serial killer is roaming the streets of Pittsburgh and he is tormenting homicide detective Tom Hardy aka Bruce Willis and his partner Jo Christman aka Sarah Jessica Parker. Hardy who was once hot on the killer’s trail is now in charge of water duty along the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, searching for clues as to the killer’s identity and cleaning up dead bodies along the way. Locations used in the filming of Striking Distance includes: The historical Point State Park at 101 Commonwealth Place, Downtown Pittsburgh. The Allegheny County Courthouse, located at 436 Grant Street, Pittsburgh and the panoramic neighborhood of Mount Washington that gives viewers an eagle eye vision from Grandview Avenue of the three rivers, the Pittsburgh skyline, Point State Park, and many of the bridges that the city is famous for.
2000: The Wonder Boys movie is based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Chabon. Professor Grady Tripp played by Michael Douglas teaches creative writing at a local university in Pittsburgh and is having an affair with the school’s Chancellor played by Frances McDormand. Robert Downey Jr. plays the part of Grady’s editor. Katie Holmes and Tobey Maguire play Hannah and James, Professor Tripp’s students, and two of his best writers, and Hannah eventually becomes an editor for a magazine after graduation. Michael Douglas appears to age gracefully and is much more toned down in this movie that offers inspiration, comedy and academic creativity. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette gives fans a few key locations that were shot in the movie and they include include: Professor Tripp’s classroom was shot at Baker Hall at Carnegie Mellon University, and his house is located at South Atlantic Avenue in the neighborhood of Friendship. Schwartz Market is located at 1317 E. Carson Street in the Southside of Pittsburgh. Sadly, the Howard Johnson featured in the movie has been torn down, but was located at 4309 Route 51 in Rostraver aka Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania. http://old.post-gazette.com/magazine/20000225Boylocation8.asp
2012: The Dark Knight Rises: Pittsburgh has always embraced superheroes and Batman is no exception. Bruce Wayne played by Christian Bale and the cast were welcomed with open arms, and the film crew equally responded to our hospitality in part because of our history, reputation and the ability to get the job done around the clock. Pittsburgh’s city backdrop might have had something to do with their choice as well. Pittsburgh’s Mayor Luke Ravenstahl even got in on the action. The entire city was pumped up over the actors, filming and general feel of a ‘Dark Knight” assisting the police force and saving the city from crime and malicious intent from villains. August in Downtown Pittsburgh was a hot mess contrived of congestion and film crews setting up scenes, and various streets were shut down for filming. Fake snow cooled Oliver Avenue at Smithfield Street down a bit, but parking restrictions and stopped traffic became severely chaotic as Wood Street, Forbes Avenue, Cherry Way were temporarily off limits while shooting took place.
Other Noteable Movies Shot in Pittsburgh: (1995) Sudden Death, starring, Jean-Claude Van Damme, (2002) The Mothman Prophecies, starring Richard Gere, (2010) Unstoppable, starring Denzel Washington, (2012) Jack Reacher, starring Tom Cruise, (2013) Frank or Francis, starring Nicolas Cage.