Southern California has long been the home of the entertainment industry—in fact, it moved westward in the early 20th century from New Jersey because Thomas Edison held and powerfully used a variety of patents that were needed to create films and to show them in theaters.
Along with other filmmaking patent holders, Edison formed the Motion Picture Patent Company (MPPC) to establish a monopoly on all-things movies, imposing copyrights and fees for anyone using his technologies to produce, distribute, and exhibit their celluloids. So while the mass migration of filmmaking creatives stemmed from avoiding Edison, the incremental events created a collective, positive impact.
Nowadays, the possibility of creating a movie in the sunny LA area are endless, with talented individuals at your disposal, professional services readily available, and yearlong mild weather. More importantly, the scenic views are endless and the different environments to set a movie in are easily adaptable. The industry has been taking full advantage of these benefits, especially the diverse locations throughout SoCal as it sets more and more projects here. Take a look at these iconic movies and their DTLA destinations for a chance to see just how frequently it happens—no need to jump on a double decker tour bus; just read more below!
There’s no better way to fall in love than with your high school sweetheart and proving that your relationship can withstand the test of time and challenges; Grease delves into this idealized romance and adds a bit of fun and entertainment with its catchy accompaniments. In the summer of ’59, Danny (John Travolta) and Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) share an unforgettable romance that would be ripped from them at the end of their break. Little do they know that they’ll be attending the same school in the upcoming semester, where they’ll face pressure from their peers, keep up with social obligations, and balance the teenage life, all while trying to rekindle their summer fling. In the widely recognizable last scene, Danny shows off his machismo by going against Leo, a member of the T-Birds’ rivals, The Scorpions, in a drag race. It takes place at the LA River, where it begins at the iconic 6th Street Viaduct and continues to the 1st Street Bridge; although this area is now being renovated for infrastructure purposes, you can still see it from a distance after parking at 350 E. 2nd.
BLADE RUNNER (1982)
How did you imagine 2019 being like? With flying cars and holographic imagery rampant on ground and air? Food and drinks in pill form for every meal? Seamless integration of robots into everyday life? Although this fantasy is not far off from where we are now (in actual 2019), Ridley Scott’s film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s Blade Runner novels had a slightly darker, more violent tone; the iconic visual design of the film would pave the way for future sci-fi movies, influencing the sets of films like The Matrix and I, Robot with its cyberpunk, dystopian aesthetics. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a retired cop/bounty hunter who is once again enlisted by LAPD to look for Replicants, or dangerous human-like androids of this world, after a rogue group threatens to kill people on Earth. Amid his mission, Deckard is saved by Rachael (Sean Young), whom he does not know is also a Replicant but whom he soon falls in love with, which rattles his judgment and complicates his situation. When Deckard is first tapped to partake in the mission, he is brought to a large police station; the infamous LA Union Station stands in as the police station, where the “offices” were set in the facility’s ticket concourse. Although the offices are long gone, you can still immerse yourself in the architecture and history of our public transportation epicenter by parking at 414 E. Commercial.
If there’s somethin’ strange in your neighborhood, if it’s somethin’ weird and it won’t look good, who ya gonna call?
Just about anyone can identify this movie with only the theme song, but fans of this 1984 cult classic have a lasting bond with its hilarious take on an alternative dystopian New York City. Ghostbusters follows a group of colleagues who, after losing their jobs at Columbia University, embark on becoming paranormal hunters to protect and save The Big Apple after unfriendly spirits take over the city. They chase and catch their first ghoul, Slimer, in the Sedgewick Hotel’s ballroom, which was in fact the former-Music-Room-turned-Lobby at the beautiful Millennium Biltmore off of Pershing Square. Enter from 5th Street and you’ll be able to follow the Ghostbusters’ path to Slimer, and now’s your chance to see it once you park at 504 S. Hill.
PRETTY WOMAN (1992)
Truth of the matter is, everybody loves a good Cinderella story. But when you tie in the biggest celebrities of the time and an edgy twist on the classic storyline, then you’ve got yourself a blockbuster. Pretty Woman beautifully portrays this rags-to-riches saga set in the framework of 90s popular culture; being the second-highest grossing film of this trope just further proves that. As an aggressive corporate raider, Edward (Richard Gere) had always lived life removed from emotions and personal attachments; but when he hires a prostitute, Vivian (Julia Roberts), to be his “girlfriend” for a weeklong business trip in California, his outlook changes and begins to fall in love with the stranger as he spends more time with her. In one instance, Vivian was to accompany Edward to a high-profile dinner with one of his associates, in which she took it upon herself to learn about formal dinner settings and etiquette to appropriately pose as his significant other. Their dinner took place at the lavish Voltaire but is actually the lavish Cicada Restaurant in reality. Eagle-eye DTLA natives will easily recognize the second-floor seating and the art deco elements that span the room, but most will be sure after seeing the entrance doors and grand staircase. Guests can even request “The Pretty Woman table” for a one-of-a-kind experience, so park at nearby 618 S. Olive and make the comparisons for yourself.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996)
Since the Roswell UFO Incident of 1947, popular culture has reinforced our longtime fascination with alien invasions—from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Falling Skies, War of the Worlds to V, these works have influenced the way we believe this phenomenon would happen. But none could have done it as spectacularly and massively as Independence Day (or ID4): this action-packed sci-fi blockbuster follows an alien species’ attack on Earth and how people craft a solution by resorting to ground zero of the first known alien attack in the U.S.—Area 51 in Roswell. As Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox), her son, and their dog head into Downtown L.A., they find themselves stuck in traffic jam inside of a tunnel; momentarily, the entire tunnel is engulfed in flames, in turn making them run for their lives and finding shelter within that tunnel. This scene was filmed at no-other-than the 2nd Street Tunnel in Bunker Hill. While the maintenance room door doesn’t actually exist, its placement can be clearly distinguished by an indentation. Check it out by parking at nearby 245 S. Broadway.
What would happen if you could go into someone’s mind? Would you influence it for good or evil? How would you go about it? What could happen? Christopher Nolan’s Inception fully explores this idea as it follows Cobb (Leonardo Di Caprio), his crew of sophisticated mind controllers, and their attempt to execute corporate espionage by planting an idea in (not stealing from) someone’s mind. In one scene, Cobb practices lucid dreaming with one of his associates, Ariadne (Ellen Page), and as they manipulate the world around them, they find themselves in the “deep dream world” that Cobb and his wife created together. The corridors they walk down is actually of the Ahmanson Theater’s, and the extension of this world is the façade of the Department of Water & Power building across the street. Although you won’t be able to alter these locations with your mind, you CAN see it for yourself off of Hope and Temple; just park at nearby 243 S. Spring.
LA LA LAND (2016)
Creatives have long considered Los Angeles as an artistic mecca: its inspiring environment and ability to propel no-name individuals to stardom have attracted people from all over the world to pursue their aspirations. La La Land explores this very story, following Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they embark on making their dreams of being in the entertainment industry a reality, while facing its many challenges, realities, and heartaches. In the middle of it all, they find themselves riding in a small train car, which is actually the infamous Angel’s Flight Railway in Bunker Hill. Although it wasn’t open to the public when this scene was filmed, the “shortest running funicular railway” is now back in operation and enhanced with several new safety features. See it in the “City of Stars” by parking at 215 S. Broadway.