My first post of the new year is going to be one of my long-overdue Shot On Site articles. I have several locations identified and waiting to be written up, and hopefully I'll get to more than one a year. In all of the confusion after the containment unit explodes, the possessed Louis easily escapes unnoticed and wanders around the streets of New York, following the signals that the possessed Dana is sending to him. We see him aimlessly walk through busy traffic while passing a WienerWald Austrian Restaurant.
In spite of there being such a clearly named landmark, this has been one of the hardest-to-identify locations in the movie simply because information on WienerWald in New York has been very scarce these past few years. Thankfully, some information has popped up here and there, and Matthew Jordan from the Ghostbusters Wiki found one of the best pieces of information there could possibly be with which to do a positive identification of the movie shot. That being this photo taken by Nick DeWolf in the Spring of 1975 of some buildings in Times Square:
Now right away the WienerWald restaurant is a pretty good piece of identifying information. Even though this wasn't the only one in the city at the time - there was another one on Eighth Avenue at 48th Street - I'm sure that there weren't very many more, so just finding photos of one is a good sign. But if you take a closer look at the photo, we can find many points of comparison with the movie shot.
The WienerWald awning was obviously changed sometime between 1975 and 1983, as the movie shows a big yellow awning, while the one in the 1975 photo is a small red and green awning. The "Restaurant + Bar" lettering is red in the 1975 photo, but that's only because it's lit up. When it's unlit, it's yellow, as barely seen at the top of the movie shot. If you look really carefully, you can see WienerWald's brick-surrounded square front windows in the movie shot. The same phone booth and street signs are visible in both photos, as is the store on the right with its three-pane glass window front. And next to WienerWald is the Embassy Theater, which was showing Earthquake in 1975, and the Dan Aykroyd/Eddie Murphy hit Trading Places when Ghostbusters was filmed there in late 1983 (notice the bottom of "Places" on the marquee in the movie shot).
And what fates befell the businesses you see in the movie and 1975 photos? Well, the Embassy Theater (aka Embassy 1 Theater), closed in 1997 and was renovated and reopened in 1998 as the Times Square Visitor Center. WienerWald (German for "Vienna Woods"), which actually sells chicken, not sausages, is still in business... just not in the United States. Wienerwald declared bankruptcy in 1982, divesting itself of its 880 restaurants in the United States, but as of 2005 still has 63 restaurants left in Germany and Austria. They're also on Facebook... but who isn't these days? And what became of its restaurant at 1560 Broadway in New York City? Well, since you deserve a break today, and I think you'll be lovin' this, I'll tell you that sometime between late 1983 and June 1985 (when this photo was taken), a VERY familiar American institution moved in...
Yes, one of the most obscure locations is now one of the most ubiquitous. I actually ate in the Times Square McDonald's back in 2003, before going to see the Ghostbusters props at nearby Planet Hollywood (I have to scan in my photo prints and get them on the site one day), and visiting the WWE The World restaurant (formerly WWF New York) a few weeks before they closed the place down. And if you were to look directly across the street from McDonald's you would see this (albeit from the side):
McDonald's is right across the street from the George M. Cohan statue seen in a later wandering Louis shot. That means the movie correctly followed Louis as he walked across the street past WienerWald to the Cohan statue. Hooray for proper continuity! For more information and links, check out Spook Central's Times Square page.
BONUS SHOT ON SITE ARTICLE
Normally I limit my filming location coverage to just the movies, but since the two biggest Ghostbusters music videos have shots filmed in Times Square, and one of them directly ties in with the McDonald's that now occupies WienerWald's former home, I thought I'd do a quickie Shot On Site article for both of them. Well, not in their entirety, just the Times Square shots.
I'll start with Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" music video since it came first (take that chicken and egg!) and has only one Times Square location (excluding the Spectacolor video screen that adorns one of the "tower" buildings). At the end of the music video, Ray and all four ghostbusters are dancing down the street at the tip of the island at W. 44th St. & 7th Ave. & Broadway. This is down at the southern end of Times Square, furthest from McDonald's.
(image on right taken on May 7, 2008 by Flickr user sjgardiner, click to enlarge)
If you need any help locating this specific spot, it's on the same island as the U.S. Armed Forces Recruitment Office (the large American Flag neon sign that sits directly in front of the Hard Rock Cafe - formerly WWE The World/WWF New York). If you go there with a Ghostbusters franchise (or group of dressed-up friends), you can re-create the dance from the music video - and even spin on the yellow cement patch that Bill spun on (although now it's completely filled in with yellow paint). Well, it was still there as of May 2009 when Google Maps took the photo below, right.
Remember when I said that parts of Bobby Brown's "On Our Own" music video show the McDonald's that moved into WienerWald's former location? Here's the proof.
At first glance you might think that the second shot isn't correct because the Sbarro is now exactly one block up the road. Well, in 1989 it was one block to the south, because the building architecture on the side is an exact match for what's seen in this photo. Also, I think the director removed the McDonald's sign from the second shot in an effort to censor any free publicity, just as they blurred the large Panasonic billboard in the background of the first shot, but they didn't get the Golden Arches seen in the McDonald's front window (the arrow is pointing right to it).
There are a whole lot more Times Square shots in the Bobby Brown music video, but I'm not going to go through them all. If someone else wants to do it, go right ahead.
Any fans visiting Times Square, especially in uniform, now have several spots where they can recreate Ghostbusters moments. You've got Louis wandering in front of what is now McDonald's. Walk across the street and he's in front of the George M. Cohan statue. Down the block a bit is the Mariott Marquis where the Ramones were spotted in the Bobby Brown music video. And down at the southern end of Times Square is the island where the Ghostbusters danced in Ray Parker Jr.'s music video. That's enough to keep you busy.
For more information about Ghostbusters filming locations, be sure to check out the rest of my Shot On Site articles, my Filming Locations page, and Chris Stewart's Shot On Site articles. Thanks Chris for letting me use your awesome title.
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