Wouldn't you like to take a walk in Bag End and knock on Bilbo Baggin's door to see who opens it? Wouldn't you like to indulge in Maya's cocoa treats in her sensational chocolate shop? Buy a book at the William's travel book shop in Notting Hill? Or dance at the real Jack Rabbit Slim's hoping that Uma Thurman or John Travolta might walk in?
Too bad it's not possible to do all these things (except for the walk) because we are talking about locations that only served as a shop or restaurant for the movie they starred in. However, Bag End can still be visited. The creators of The Lord of the Rings left the charming Hobbit village near Auckland intact. It became a huge tourist magnet, attracting 600,000 visitors each year before international traveling was shut down because of Covid.
There are plenty of movie locations we can visit when the pandemic is over. Because filming took place at sites no one would even think of demolishing afterwards. Locations like museums, churches or other historic buildings and public places. Most other movie sets are still demolished right after shooting is completed
Hobbit village Photo Shutterstock
Is there really no other way? Shouldn't certain movie sets be given a protected status? Because they became part of our culture? I understand that a location only gets such a status after some time, when the movie and series have earned its place in history. But there must be a way to bring it all back to life!
This plea is not about theme park attractions like Hogwarts, which was built at Leavesden Studios near London, or the Jurassic World Ride at Universal Studios. No, we are talking about the real experiences in the real world. Take a look at Sad Hill Cemetery from the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for example. Die-hard fans of the classic 1966 western decided to restore the legendary filming location in Northern Spain. How they did it is well documented in the great movie Sad Hill Unearthed.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly copyright United Artists
Protecting movie locations or honoring them is not entirely new. In 2015, the European Film Academy took the initiative to start collecting European Treasures of Film Culture. The famous Ferris Wheel in Vienna (used in the cold war thriller The Third Man) and the stairs in Odessa (famously portraited in Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin) were given that status. It would not surprise me if the beach at St. Edwards in Scotland will also be added to that list. Years ago, a plaque was already placed near the beach by the Scottish Film Council to honor the filming location of the Academy Award winning movie Chariots of Fire.
It would be nice if the honoring of historic filming locations could get more support than a plaque. Why did local authorities not preserve the Coquihalla bridge in Hope, Canada and decided to tear it down? And give movie fans from all around the world a change to visit the town and bridge they have come to associate with the first Rambo movie, First Blood? The new bridge could have been built next to it...
Forrest Gump copyright Paramount
And why can't someone restore the restaurant Jack Rabbit Slim's from Pulp Fiction in the former bowling alley in Glendale (even though the set itself was built in a Culver City warehouse)? Why not bring back Forrest Gump's bench to Chippewa Square in Savannah? Why not reopen Vianne Rocher's chocolate shop in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, France? Even if it's only a pop-up store during the summer. Or convert Twisters in New Mexico into Los Pollos Hermanos every year, as it was done in 2018 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the hit series Breaking Bad. The possibilities are endless. It would be great for fans all over the world and would definitely benefit the local community financially. It would even be a commercial opportunity for the rights owners.
Arch Monument Valley photo Eric
If there is one location I would love to nominate for a protected status, it would be the arch from Once Upon a Time in the West in the Utah desert. 53 years after filming wrapped, there is not much left of the film relic except for a few stacked stones. If some movie fans with engineering skills got together and talked to some sponsors, state officials and most importantly the Navajos chiefs, there might be a great opportunity to bring movie history back to life for many years to come.
Eric of SCEEN IT
April 2, 2021
The Lord of the Rings
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Third Man
Once Upon a Time in the West