"New York, You've Changed" is a new Scouting NY site feature in
which the New York depicted in movies is compared with the city of
today. This is not the usual list of shooting locations and addresses
to visit next time you tour the city. Instead, this is a full
shot-by-shot dissection to see what New York once was and what it has
become, for better or worse. I've tried to recreate the angles and
framing as best as possible, and have presented the shots (more or
less) in the order they appear in the film. This is Part Two to our look
at Ghostbusters -- Part One is here. Enjoy!
With this article, we're completing our "New York, You've Changed"
look at Ghostbusters. Picking up where we left off, Egon, Ray, and
Peter have been kicked out of Columbia and have since purchased a
Tribeca firehouse to base their fledgling ghostbusting business in.
In this scene, Ray drives up in what will soon become the iconic
"Ectomobile" -- not a hearse, as some believe, but actually an old
ambulance (to be specific, a 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor limo-style endloader combination car [ambulance conversion]). If you
look in the background, you get a brief glimpse of the neighborhood
surrounding the firehouse on North Moore Street.
You get a better view later in the film, when Peter arrives to find EPA officer Walter Peck attempting to shut down the powergrid. As you can see in both pictures, a lot has changed, primarily the complete gutting of what I think was the "Vera Electronics Company," now the Cercle Rouge Brasserie. Lots of building painting changes to boot. Also, North Moore Street has lost meter parking but has gained some foliage.
Also, note the squat brick building on the corner, which you can see in this aerial view when the storage facility blows.
This brick building was purchased by a wealthy family, who recently built a five story home on top of it (yep, that's a single family house). Because the brick building is landmarked, they had to integrate it into their design. Ha, I'd sort of rather live in the firehouse, but then, I'm nuts.
As Peter listens to Ray's endless list of car repairs, we get a glimpse across Hudson Street, which has completely changed (the restaurant on the corner is now Walkers). Also note that the "ENTRANCE AROUND CORNER" sign on the firehouse still exists:
After meeting Dana Barrett, the Ghostbusters complete their first successful bust at the Sedgewick Hotel. Where is its New York counterpart? You'll have to go to California for that one -- they filmed at Los Angeles' Millennium Biltmore Hotel.
We next get a montage taking us through their rapid successes at busting ghosts, and I'm going to need a little help identifying this first location. Anyone recognize it? It feels very familiar to me, but I just can't place it. I think that sign says "Mens Wear" on the right, though I doubt that helps. Also, the bearded guy looking into the camera is actually an actor.
The next part of the montage appears to have been shot around the Little Italy/Chinatown neighborhood. I was excited to go searching for some of the more obscure shots, but was ultimately thwarted by the San Gennaro festival (for non-New Yorkers, thousands of people descend on Little Italy for an enormous street fair, making photography, walking, even breathing nearly impossible). I'm planning on returning to the area after the festival is over sometime this November. We get a shot of the Ectomobile passing by the infamous Umberto's ...
Next, we see Peter and Ray in Chinatown. I really feel there's enough clues in this picture to locate this (the metal railing, the yellow sign, etc.) and for shooting purposes, I bet it's very close to Umberto's.
This next shot of Egon with a smoking trap had me wondering, until I noticed both a "Luna Restaurant" and a "PIZZA" sign in the background. Granted, this could be anywhere in New York (there are several "Luna" establishments in the city), but if they were doing montage shots in Little Italy, it seems to be a safe bet that this was there.
It would also make perfect sense to find an apartment building with a lower level like this in the neighborhood. If anyone knows differently, please let me know!
Here, we see the Ectomobile cruise past St. Patrick's and Saks Fifth Ave. In many of these shots, it's actually Dan Aykroyd driving the car, even though you can't see him. Looks like the awnings are gone. Also, for reasons unknown, we now need to put up with that incredibly frustrating sidewalk barrier:
Finally, we see the Ghostbusters running up Rockefeller Center. Apparently, they had no permission to shoot there, and you can actually see a security guy (maybe the man in white on the left?) running after them in the shot.
After the montage, Peter chats with Dana about Zuul and Gozer in Lincoln Center. The fountain was recently replaced, to the dismay of preservationists, with a modern version that will entertain tourists with computer-controlled water displays.
Bad things quickly begin happening in Dana's apartment building. For the life of me, I can't find this location in Central Park. It's obviously faked -- Dana's apartment is superimposed where it simply doesn't exist. But I can't seem to find this curve. Any guesses? The best I could come up with is the entrance at 72nd Street, which doesn't feel totally right.
With a terror dog right behind him, Louis Tully flees to Central Park and desperately tries to get into Tavern on the Green via the patio (I believe the statue was a prop).
Inside, a birthday party is in full swing (trivia -- the birthday girl is Debbie Gibson). I located the correct side of the patio by that tree, which is hidden behind the hanging flowers in the below picture.
Louis runs to the left and desperately tries the door, which is locked (FYI -- for anyone running from terror dogs, the door is still locked):
Finally, in what has to be one of the more sympathy-inducing scenes in modern cinema, Louis backs against a window -- it's the second one to the right of the tree trunk.
Shortly after, Walter Peck shuts down the protection grid and the containment unit blows. As you watch the enormous explosion blow out of the Ghostbusters roof, you could be forgiven for not noticing the MATERA CANVAS ad on the building to the left, which is still there today:
The ad advertises a store at 5 Lispenard Street, which was in business as recently as 1990, having been around since 1907 (more info in this New York Times article).
During the commotion, Louis manages to escape -- anyone know what street this?
A quick tidbit you might have missed -- in this shot, you can see a "STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOWS" wall ad on the building to the left (wouldn't that be a great addition to the now otherwise ugly wall?).
As ghosts escape, we see one fly out of a subway station, which can be found at the City Hall RW train entrance on Broadway west of City Hall (the newsstand seems to have shifted south a block):
Next, a commuter gets in a cab with a corpse. Any idea what avenue this is?
I've had this cab driver before:
The cab takes off, sending traffic swerving out of its path. This might give a second clue to the location of the scene:
For a brief moment, we get a shot of Louis crossing the street as he makes his way to Dana's apartment. What I find interesting about this shot is an awning that reads "WIENERWALD - Austrian Restaurant." I had never heard of a WienerWald before -- apparently, it was the largest fast food restaurant in Europe during the 1970's, and had attempted to expand to America. Now, there are only 63 locations left in Germany and Austria.
Slimer makes another appearance, this time in a hot dog vendor's cart outside of the McGraw-Hill building at Rockefeller Center:
Dana sends a signal to Louis, who hears it in Times Square. This is the weirdest shot -- it's like the went out of their way to hide the fact that it's Times Square. I only recognized it for the TKTS booth (boy has that changed) and the George Cohan statue. Odd that they would shoot in the heart of Manhattan and not show the surrounding area (methinks they got this shot on the fly).
After a meeting with the mayor at City Hall ...
...the boys in gray peel out and head uptown...
... vowing to "run some red lights."
Much of the destruction that occurs to the street in front of Dana's building was actually shot on a sound stage in California with a full two-story replica of the apartment's facade (if you pay close attention, it's very clear when they're on the set):
Finally, the one and only Stay Puft Marshmallow Man makes an appearance in Columbus Circle. Aw, I miss the old Museum of Arts & Design building, even if it was one of the ugliest buildings in the city (for years, I thought it was some sort of parking garage). Note the sliver of an old Marlboro Cigarettes ad on the right:
As terrified New Yorkers flee, they have no idea that the store on the corner will one day be a FedEx Kinkos:
As Stay Puft approaches the building, you can see just how drastic the building addition is:
I had to post this great shot -- I never noticed that two great villains, Walter Peck and Stay Puft, appear in one brief shot.
Finally, years later, the marshmallow has been cleaned up and New York is basically back to normal.
As it turns out, most of the changes between the New York in Ghostbusters and the New York of 2009 are pretty small, due to the fact that the movie was mostly shot in locations where change is not allowed (the New York Public Library, Columbia, Rockefeller Center, etc.). In my mind, it's a very good thing that these New York treasures are still standing strong more than 25 years later.
With the recent success of 80's nostalgia reboots (G.I. Joe, Transformers, etc.), there's been renewed talk about a Ghostbusters 3. A script was commissioned by Sony Pictures, with writing duties handed to Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, the writers of Year One.
The writers of Year One. Are you fucking kidding me?
Look, I'd kill to see the Ghostbusters hit the streets of New York for one last fight against the paranormal, but when I say the Ghostbusters, I don't mean a new crop of comedic actors. Nothing makes me fear for the worst more than thinking of Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Seth Rogan, or Paul Rudd hefting on a proton pack (in his defense, Seth Rogan is on record as saying he will not be the guy to ruin Ghostbusters). I've heard industry-types say that there's no way Murray, Aykroyd, or Ramis could support a tentpole movie like Ghostbusters 3.
Bullshit. If Harrison Ford can pack 'em in at 67 for a subpar Indy IV, there is no question that audiences will turn out in droves to see Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston save New York one more time.
Anyway, hope you enjoyed! I'm going to try to make this a regular site feature. Next time, we'll move a bit further back in film history.