Newark has had its share of the spotlight serving as the backdrop for many action adventure stories and indie films. It's has played an influential role in the motion picture industry; in fact, the roots of the film industry started in Newark with Hannibal Goodwin's patent of nitrocellulose film in 1887. Grab a bag of popcorn and get ready to check out some of familiar locations straight from the big screen with our self-guided Newark Blockbuster Film Tour.
Start off on the Passaic River (off of Route 21), you will find the raised bridge which was part of the final climatic scenes of Annie. It was here that Aileen Quinn as little orphan Annie held on for dear life running from her "fake" parents.When you reach downtown, look up! Thanks to the rich architecture of Newark's many historic districts and iconic structures, downtown has set the scene for many movies and even Eminem's "Not Afraid" video. Newark was front and center for Queen Latifah's U.N.I.T.Y and Just Another Day was shot off of Avon Avenue.
Inside 15 Washington Street, the former Rutgers School of Law building was turned into "City Law School" in Matt Damon's Rounders, a 1998 film about New York law students and gambling. Filming utilized several rooms inside - a courtroom, lunchroom and the library as well as some outside shots. The building has been closed since 2000, but will soon come back to life as a residence for nearly 400 students and be the two-story penthouse home for the Rutgers-Newark chancellor.
Just two blocks away, a part of the same James Street Historic District, a block of Halsey Street was transformed to look like 1950's Chicago in Cadillac Records. Old school Cadillacs lined the street, extras in period clothing walked the sidewalks, and storefronts were converted into record shops, recording studios, and men's stores. Adrian Brody, Jeffrey Wright, and Columbus Short were on the scene on Halsey. You can see the actual storefront that was demolished by one the historic rides and across the street, the front side (on Broad Street) of the now empty Hahne's building and the future home of Whole Foods was made to look like a movie theater. The street is now lined with unique stores and cute coffee shops and restaurants. In 2011, Gotham City frenzy took over the streets of Newark with the shooting of Batman, The Dark Knight Rises. Gotham PD cars lined Commerce Street and there was a police chase down Raymond Blvd.
Underground at Military Park, the Newark Light Rail
station became a Gotham City Subway scene where Anne Hathaway as Cat Woman and Christian Bale made an appearance. A few blocks away, take a step inside Newark City Hall with its golden dome, stone floors and broad columns where Morgan Freeman can be spotted in the movie. The building was transformed into a makeshift infirmary with cots lining the hallway and vagrants burning fires.From City Hall, travel to the Ironbound on Ferry Street and you will run right into St. Stephen's Church at the intersection of Ferry Street and Wilson Avenue. It was here that you could have seen Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise filming the remake of War of the Worlds. In the movie, the front of the church was the scene of a tripod alien emerging from the ground. Tom Cruise attracted quite a crowd and even was said to have signed autographs for nearly an hour; you can find many of those signed pictures on the walls of nearby businesses.
Relive the scene and end the tour, by grabbing a table at Andros Diner (across the street) where the film crew grabbed coffee and mastermind meetings were held and imagine how the steeple on the church was blown to smithereens by alien laser beams.
Other quick shots of Newark can be seen in the 2004 comedy; Harold and Kumar go to White Castle and the 2014 film, Gimme Shelter. Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand shook things up at Newark Liberty International Airport for The Guilt Trip (2012).
Next time you're at the movies, look for landmarks...you never know where Newark will appear next.
Tamara Remedios is a Newark resident, a self-proclaimed foodie, mommy, marketing and events entrepreneur and co-founder of NewarkPulse.com, a positive news site for Newark.