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Phillywood: 7 key sites in Philly movie history

Did you know that "Mannequin" was filmed here?
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    Wells Fargo Building on Broad Street, just south of City Hall in Philadelphia.

    |Jessica Leigh Swift

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    Inside the lobby of the Wanamaker Building, facing City Hall.

    |Jessica Leigh Swift

While Philadelphia is a good 3,000 miles from Hollywood, enough filmmakers have adopted the city’s unique layout, architecture and even talent to make their own personal marks on the cinematic landscape. This summer, take a tour of some of Philadelphia’s best-known filming locations. We'll start with the most obvious.

1. Philadelphia Museum of Art — “Rocky”

The 1976 Oscar-winning film "Rocky" put Sy​lvester Stallone on the map and, even 40 years later, continues to be an icon of Philadelphia. Rocky’s famous run up the front steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art has been repeated countless times by tourists, fans and even Rocky himself. A statue of the fictitious fighter stands at the base of the steps. The city played a major role in the original “Rocky,” its five sequels, and spin-off film “Creed,” with sights like the Italian Market and Cira Centre also making appearances.

2. Wells Fargo Building — “Trading Places”

The 1983 fish-out-of-water comedy “Trading Places” was a successful vehicle for the talents of Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy. The Wells Fargo Bank on Broad Street, just south of City Hall, acted as the central location of the Duke and Duke Bank, operated by the slimy Duke brothers (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy). Other scenes in the movie took us to such Philly sights as Rittenhouse Square Park and the Bridge-Pratt Station of SEPTA’s Market-Frankford Line (now Frankford Transportation Center).

3. John Wanamaker Building — “Mannequin”

“Mannequin” was an entry in a long line of goofy 1980s comedies with a stellar cast, headlined by heartthrob Andrew McCarthy and a pre-"Sex in the City" Kim Cattrall. For the film, the old Wanamaker’s Department Store on Market Street (now Macy’s), a staple of the city’s annual Christmas festivities, was transformed into Prince and Co. It was here that a mannequin (Cattrall) magically came to life and ultimately fell in love with McCarthy’s character. The store was also used in the film’s ill-received and wholly unnecessary sequel, “Mannequin Too: On the Move.”

|<image-caption><p>St. Augustine's Church, founded in Philadelphia in 1796.</p></image-caption>|Jessica Leigh Swift

4. 30th Street Station — “Witness”

With a setting largely taking place in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, it’s almost easy to forget that a significant scene of the 1985 Harrison Ford film “Witness” was filmed right here in Philadelphia. When young Amish murder witness Samuel first arrives in the big city, he stands in the main concourse of the city’s bustling train station, staring in awe at the towering "Angel of the Resurrection" statue, part of the station’s Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial.

5. Eastern State Penitentiary — “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”

The second entry in Michael Bay’s explosive live-action Transformers series may have taken place in New York, but was largely filmed in Philly. This is especially noticeable when two establishing shots give the impression that the Ben Franklin Bridge leads right into Midtown Manhattan (which isn’t any less gridlocked than the traffic light at Eighth and Vine streets). Shia LeBouf hides his robotic alien buddies within the towering walls of Eastern State Penitentiary. Other scenes in the movie were filmed on the campus of University of Pennsylvania and in the City Hall Courtyard — which itself was acting as downtown Paris in the movie.

6. St. Augustine Catholic Church — “The Sixth Sense”

In 1999, suburban-Philadelphia-raised M. Night Shyamalan redefined horror cinema with his plot-twist-laden debut film “The Sixth Sense,” which followed a young boy who could talk to ghosts. Haley Joel Osment’s character Cole regularly takes refuge in the majestic walls of this beautiful Center City church. Other scenes in the movie were shot throughout the area, ranging from South Philly to Bryn Mawr and everywhere in between.

7. Ontario Street Comics — “Unbreakable”

M. Night Shyamalan continued his love affair for plot twists and Philadelphia filming locations with his 2000 follow-up to “The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable.” In the massive warehouse that is Ontario Street Comics in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood, Samuel L. Jackson tends shop and tells Bruce Willis’ character a few things about himself that he didn’t even know. “Unbreakable” also saw its characters in Franklin Field on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus (where Shyamalan himself makes a cameo) as well as Manayunk.

 

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