Not to spoil the surprise, but in Ghostbusters 2, the hole the team cuts in 1st Avenue isn’t 1st Avenue. It’s not even New York – which is how the post came about, starting with me watching Ghostbusters 2 on home video. The more I watched that scene, the more it didn’t feel quite right. They made it look like New York, but it didn’t feel like New York (no matter how many “New York Times” vans they had drive by.) It felt like Los Angeles – and given the hassles they had shooting in New York, it’s not hard to imagine the production would set-up a literal traffic obstruction somewhere with, well, less traffic.
As it turns out, it was shot in LA – East 8th Ave and South Broadway (not too terribly far from the Biltmore Hotel, a more famous instance of LA standing in for New York in a Ghostbusters movie) to be exact.
Before I get into details, feel free to check out the site yourself on Google Maps – you can pan, zoom, and generally slide around the site. See if you can spot the site (but a warning – there’s been a big change from when the movie was filmed.)
Once widescreen copies of the film because available, it became easier to spot things that didn’t feel right – but it also made it easier to start pulling the shot apart. A few years back I noticed the sign for the coffee shop Ray and Peter come out of – was the store dressed or was that the actual name on the storefront? Only one way to know – websearch. It wasn’t hard to find out that there was a Libby’s Coffee Shop in LA and in an area that the year before I had actually wandered around (the interior stand-in firehall is also close by.) It certainly felt right, but the newly set-up Google Earth satellite photos weren’t confirming anything – how hard could it be to spot a parking lot? But it wasn’t there. I was going to have to go on site.
Except, Google then went a step further and added their street level panorama photos – once they completed LA, a person could go have a look around virtually (as you did, if you used the link on the last page.) It quickly became apparent why I couldn’t find the spot properly – the address was right, but Libby’s and the parking lot next to it were gone.
Not that I figured this out right away – assuming the address was right, and once I stopped obsessing over Libby’s, I turned around, looking across the street, which in many ways you see even better than the North side of the street. Visual clues started to fall into place. Here we go;
Figure 2 is the clincher (well, Libby’s address being in the phone listings, or at least the crappy web ones that don’t update properly for years, is the clincher, but figure 2 is something solid to look at.) I’ve always called it a florists, as you can see a stand of flowers behind the awning drapes, but you can also see oranges and writing that make it clear it’s a grocery store.
Two things are the best points to compare in the scene – the first is some sort of utility box. You can see it in each photo. And that utility box gives us a frame of reference to what looks like venting on the wall of the building – again, easily visible in both shots. Which is good, because everything else in the scene is changed!
Besides scattering around piles of dirt, an air compressor, actors, etc., the grocery store is a cover-up awning (notice it’s loose and not taut, like a proper awning), with sidewalk drapes, behind which are piles of produce etc. The prefect way to hide the tailor shop windows behind them! As well, both scenes, around the above mentioned venting, have big red wall signs for an Italian clothing warehouse – this makes sense, as the area in LA is filled with Italian clothing outlets and tailors. The two signs are similar, but different, which makes it hard to figure out if one replaced the other in real-life or if one is a temporary tweak by the film crew. The real head scratcher is above the grocery – where windows can be seen in the movie, they are covered by a giant sign currently. The windows must be real, but was the sign there and again, temporarily removed for the film, or something that went up later.
With Libby’s on the corner of E 8th and South Bway and a parking lot next to it, the only noticable structure on the North side of the street is an apartment or office building. If it wasn’t for this building, it would have been nearly impossible to figure out that this was the spot. There isn’t as much to point out, except that you can clearly see the windows and an area where the doorway in is, match nicely. Window air-conditioners and cheap signs tacked onto the outside, above the sidewalk, are gone, but the building is the same. It’s hard to see in a still, but you can also make out a street lamp both in Google Maps and in the film – both in the same position.
Libby’s is gone – it may have moved, and while that’s nice for the proprietors, the older, character filled storefront in the film is gone, replaced by a Star Lux Perfumes. The building is so new, that when Google took its picture last year, the Broadway storefronts were still empty and available for rent. The fantastic part about the whole scene is that it’s an excellent pick for a New York stand in – turn 180, and it’s nearly impossible not to recognize the area as LA.
Oh, and the last clue that it’s the right spot…?
The street’s one way. Same as the film.