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Greater Philadelphia in the Movies

It All Began With Sylvester Stalone's Rocky in 1975


M. Night Shyamalan is preparing to begin production of his next film "The Woods." Set in 1897, "The Woods" tells the story of a close-knit community that has a mythical race of creatures residing in the woods around them. The cast includes Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Howard, Adrien Brody, William Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver. Principal photography will be done at an undisclosed wooded location about 45 miles from Center City, Philadelphia.

"The Woods" follows upon the success of three previous films by Shyamalan - "Signs"(2002), "Unbreakable" (2000) and "The Sixth Sense," his 1999 release which was nominated for six Academy Awards.

All four of these movies not only share the same director but also one other significant element. All four are set in the Greater Philadelphia area of Pennsylvania.

In fact, "Signs" is just one of over 50 feature length movies which have been made in Philadelphia since Sylvester Stallone brought the streets of South Philadelphia, the Italian Market and the Delaware River waterfront to the big screen in his 1975 film, "Rocky."

Over 25 years have elapsed since Rocky Balboa ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and raised his arms in triumph as the music to "Gonna Fly Now" reached its climax. Stallone would return three more times to film scenes for several of the "Rocky" sequels.

Director Brian De Palma made two movies in Philadelphia in the late 1970s. The first was the controversial "Dressed to Kill," considered by many to be De Palma's tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. The second was the thriller "Blow Out," starring John Travolta. One of the movie's most memorable scenes has Travolta's vehicle racing through the City Hall courtyard and ultimately crashing into the windows of the former Wanamaker's Department Store on Market Street.

In 1980, director Louis Malle traveled to South Jersey to film his movie, "Atlantic City," which was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Burt Lancaster) and Best Actress (Susan Sarandon).

Two of the most successful movies made in Philadelphia were released in 1982 and 1984 respectively.

Director John Landis' 1982 comedy, "Trading Places," starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd, shows parts of Philadelphia not previously seen in the movies. The opening credits pan from Boathouse Row and the nearby Schuylkill Expressway to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, from the streets of West Philadelphia and the SEPTA El to public art and architectural masterpieces like Philadelphia's City Hall. "Trading Places" accurately shows Philadelphia to be a city of great ethnic and social diversity, where people from every area of the city intermix on a daily basis.

Peter Weir's 1985 movie, "Witness," while largely filmed in nearby Lancaster County, Pennsylvania contains some of the most impressive images of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station ever captured on film. The unique architecture and sheer size of the building is amazingly captured in the opening scenes of the movie.

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