On the Back Lot, New York 90210
For all the surprises the Southern California landscape has to offer, few are as unexpected, or surreal, as the sizable chunks of New York rising among the palms on the back lots of Hollywood. These massive scenic reconstructions, half a dozen in all, each covering several acres, are built close to full scale, with 50-foot facades and full-width streets. They are as walkable as any real city.
Far from being part of the industry’s mythic past, the outdoor sets constitute a vital part of its present and its future. But a few decades ago, these cityscapes were in danger of disappearing, victims of the contraction of the studio system and the increase in location shooting. At the same time, the rise in Los Angeles real-estate values put intense pressure on the studios to sell off their sprawling back lots. But in the last few years the studio’s New York streets have made a stunning comeback, refurbished and in some cases entirely rebuilt, thanks in part to their value as tourist attractions and to the rise in New York’s popularity as a setting for films.
Today, while the famous old Western streets lie fallow (in some cases, they were demolished), the New York lots are among the most heavily used sites. In recent years, they have provided the setting for everything from “Spider-Man” to “Friends,” from Batman and Robin’s fantastic Gotham City to the gritty urban background of Madonna and Missy Elliott’s Gap commercials. Suitably costumed, they have stood in as 1930’s Chicago in “Road to Perdition” and mid-21st-century Washington in “Minority Report.”
Source: New York Times
Article by James Sanders