. The Caped Crusader, unstoppable trains, and a perfect Hollywood script : Budget Travel Adventures

The Caped Crusader, an unstoppable train, and the perfect Hollywood script

PNC Park skyline Pittsburgh movies

The Pittsburgh skyline – a scene right out of a Hollywood movie

If like was like a movie, these would be the scenes playing on the streets of the city.

Batman roams the dark streets of Gotham as a hero with a dark past.  Nearby, a runaway train races down the tracks ready to destroy anything that gets in its path.  In a nearby prison, a flesh eating psychopath torments and plays games with an FBI agent.

Has this city gone mad?  Not at all.  Welcome to Pittsburgh – the Hollywood of the East!

A new Pittsburgh

Market square Pittsburgh

The new Pittsburgh

I arrived on Tuesday ready to experience a Pittsburgh Renaissance.  Over the last 30 years, this city has been transformed.

Walking the streets of Pittsburgh, gone are the days of industry, steel, and blue collar workers.  Yet this city still has a blue collar feel.  In my conversations with locals, they are still a working class people who have embraced a new kind of Pittsburgh.

The city is cleaner and is making efforts to go green.  The three rivers of Pittsburgh are adorned with new stadiums like Heinz Field and PNC Park as they decorate the banks of the Allegheny.

Wandering through downtown Pittsburgh on a Wednesday morning, construction efforts continue to make this city more appealing and efficient.  Pittsburgh has become a well balanced city mixing tourism, finance, green energy, and many other industries to rebuild and sustain its economy.

For those who haven’t visited the city since the 80s, my photos of Pittsburgh show how much it has changed.  On a tour of PNC Park, I was stunned by the views of Pittsburgh’s skyline – maybe the best of any stadium in the country.

Pittsburgh has been named one of the top US cities to live and is becoming quite the popular destination for tourists, movie buffs, and families.

As a first time visitor to Pittsburgh, I was impressed despite the clouds and cold.  There was still a bit of grit and working class feel to the city without the ugly, dirty industrial views.  The city has maintained its charms while transforming into a modern, clean, urban city that is getting some attention.

On my visit to Pittsburgh, I was here to explore the past and the present in a unique way.  Welcome to the new Hollywood with some of the best TV and film history of any city in the country!

Pittsburgh movies and a new Hollywood

Fred_Rogers“Who are the people in your neighborhood…in your neighborhood…in your neighborhood?”

Pittsburgh movies and TV history began in 1905 with the first motion picture theater in the United States.  However, Pittsburgh’s TV debut began in 1968 with the kids show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and his neighborhood was based on the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.  WQED in Pittsburgh debuted Mr Rogers Neighborhood in 1968.  It was a family friendly way to usher in the TV and film era in Pittsburgh.

The Hollywood of the East was just getting started.

In 1968, Night of the Living Dead hit the theaters with most of the movie filmed in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area.

For years, the city was in movie limbo but made its feature film return with the popular movie Flashdance in 1983.  This was the movie that defined and showcased the blue collar city with all its struggles in the early 80s.

2013 celebrates the 30th anniversary of that movie.  How times have changed in the city of Pittsburgh!

Since 1983, nearly 60 films, TV shows, and TV movies have been shot in Pittsburgh including Silence of the Lambs, Inspector Gadget, Lorenzo’s Oil, Mothman Prophecies, Unstoppable, Abduction, The Dark Knight Rises, and Jack Reacher.

As we move into 2014, expect that list to grow as the Pittsburgh film commission and the city have worked on incentives to draw even more movies to this hotbed of Hollywood films.  2013 will see the debut of three new films shot in Pittsburgh – A Resurrection, Out of the Furnace, and Foxcatcher.

During my visit to Pittsburgh, I had the chance to visit Enrico Biscotti Café and the Strip District, 31st Studios, and Carrie Furnace.

Enrico Biscotti Cafe The Bread My Sweet Pittsbugh movies

Learning about the movie The Bread, My Sweet at Enrico Biscotti Cafe

During lunch at Enrico Biscotti Café, we learned about the film The Bread, My Sweet from owner Larry Lagattuta which was based on the life of the original owners of the place.  Walking the streets of the Strip District, we learned about the historic and cultural heartbeat of Pittsburgh where scenes from Flashdance, Inspector Gadget, Jack Reacher, and more were shot.

On a visit to 31st studios, we got to see a real life Hollywood movie studio in Pittsburgh.  Here, scenes from Unstoppable and The Dark Knight Rises were filmed.  I got a little excited as visions of Batman props and vehicles in this massive studio danced in my head.

On our final full day in Pittsburgh, we drove out of the city to see a little history.  In nearby Braddock, Carrie’s Furnace was a vital part of the iron and steel industry.  The work here was hard and even deadly.  These days, it’s the home of films, movies, and videos.

In October, the movie Out of the Furnace will debut with many of the scenes being filmed right here.  The series “Hemlock Grove” was inspired by Carrie Furnace.  Even a music video by Wiz Khalifa was filmed here.

Walking around the site, the place was beautiful in a historic and nostalgic kind of way.  As the sun was shining down on this Pittsburgh relic, this place had life again.

It was the perfect place to end my time in Pittsburgh.

Carries Furnace Pittsburgh movies

Scenes from a Hollywood movie – Carrie’s Furnace

Carrie's Furnace outdoors Pittsburgh movies

Carrie’s Furnace – a piece of Pittsburgh’s history and popular film location

Pittsburgh – a plot from a Hollywood movie

The Hollywood movie scene is just one piece of the ever changing city of Pittsburgh.  From past to present, films and television have played a vital role in the city’s history.

31st studio Pittsburgh movies

31st studios – film location for movies like Unstoppable and The Dark Knight Rises

From gorgeous skylines to Hollywood blockbusters, Pittsburgh movies have hit the big time.  These days, movie buffs are making their way to the city and discovering that it’s much more than a film destination.

If you enjoy those Hollywood stories where the star rises from the ashes to overcome hardship and become a success, you’ll enjoy the city of Pittsburgh.  It’s not just a city that plays hosts to Hollywood – it’s a city with its own real life Hollywood script.

What’s your favorite movie or television show filmed in Pittsburgh?  Would you want to do a tour of Pittsburgh’s film history?

Thanks to Visit Pittsburgh for inviting me to the city to experience a taste of the movie and film history in the city.  While travel expenses and accommodations were provided by Visit Pittsburgh, all opinions are my own.  If you want more information on Pittsburgh movies and TV, check out Pittsburgh’s Hollywood history.

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  1. One of the best book/movie combinations of all time took place and was filmed in Pittsburgh. “Wonder Boys” starring Michael Douglas, Tobey McGuire, and Robert Downey Jr to name a few took place in Pittsburgh. The author of the book, Michael Chabon grew up in Pittsburgh. Interesting to hear about the films made there.

    • I have to admit I am not a movie buff. I knew Flashdance was filmed in Pittsburgh but had no idea about films like Silence of the Lambs and others. So this was a very educational trip for me. Pittsburgh is making quite the effort to become a big movie location.

  2. John Tiech says:

    Jeremy, I loved the article. Please check out my Facebook page called Hometown Hollywood. I wrote a book about Pittsburgh movies that was released last summer called ‘Pittsburgh Film History’ and I have a second book coming out this summer called ‘Pittsburgh Film & Television’.

    • That’s awesome John! Quite honestly, I knew nothing about Pittsburgh’s movie history until I visited. I’ve seen some of the many movies filmed there and had no idea. Congrats on the book – Pittsburgh is becoming quite the movie and TV destination. Maybe you could use your book to start some kind of tours?

      • John Tiech says:

        Thanks! I’m participating in a Greater Pittsburgh Entertainment Museum project slated to open this September. I also took your advice and contacted Visit Pittsburgh for some possibilities with the book. All the best to you. :)

        • That’s awesome John! Good luck with that. Just to let you know, I was talking with the tourism person from Visit Pittsburgh and she said there isn’t anything for movie tours right now but it’s something they want to do. Maybe you will be the right person to step in and help them out. Definitely sounds like there is a need for it.

  3. Jeremy, So sorry we missed you when you traveled into the city a few weeks ago, we would have loved to contributed. Our new management company, Casteel Management Group and also our Bohemia Group Pittsburgh satellite office to Los Angeles based Bohemia Group is proof that this industry is growing across the country. The actors in Pittsburgh have embraced our concept, our directors have expanded their reach and bigger dreams are coming alive now. We are booking speaking roles for actors all over the world now from Pittsburgh! A huge step in the right direction for PIttsburgh to open it’s doors of opportunity for growth in the entertainment industry. Changing every day! Thanks Jeremy for your story and we look forward to seeing you the next time you travel through Pittsburgh!

  4. Peter Lee says:

    Again Great post! You always come up with some interesting blogs and this time you come up with “Hollywood Stories”. I always wait for your blogs as I found your blogs very interesting. Thank you and I wish you the best of luck with the upcoming blogs.

    • Thanks Peter. I really appreciate your comments. I love writing to tell a story. I probably love those stories more than I do on tips. Pittsburgh is such a unique location to have such a long TV and film history. I will have a lot more coming up on my travels and hope you’ll enjoy those just as much. Stay tuned for the newest blog post (if you haven’t already seen it). I hope it inspires people and changes the way they think about travel.

  5. Such an interesting piece! I had no idea of the Hollywood / Pittsburgh connection!

    • I didn’t either until I visited. There were some pretty big movies filmed there. I was very surprised. However, after talking to people there the city really is pushing to become a big name in movies.

  6. eva says:

    love these photos. i visited pittsburgh last summer and was so impressed with the city. would definitely return and check out the movie studios.

    • This was my first visit to Pittsburgh and I was impressed with the city. What was your favorite thing or place in the city? What would you recommend to other travelers? What surprised you about the city?

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