Lower Manhattan Film and TV Locations

In 2009, New York City’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting developed “Made in New York” free, downloadable podcasts of film locations in Tribecca and other parts of Lower Manhattan narrated by actors Julianna Marguiles and Matthew Modine.  It appears that this government office may have intended to create more of these podcasts, but only two are listed on their website.  The audio appears to be only available in ITunes, though you can also just download the mp3 files.  Click on the link above to be taken to their website.  We have put together a little more content for you to explore these neighborhoods.

You may also be interested in our other related self-guided tours and articles:

If you would like an organized tour, there are several TV and Movie themed bus tours in New York City.  If you are considering purchasing one of the New York tourist passes, please note that several movie themed tours and excursions are included for free.  Read our post on whether or not a pass is worth it for you.

A – Tribeca Cinemas

Tribeca Film FestivalThis theater houses private screenings and is one of the venues used for the world-famous Tribeca Film Festival.  The festival had been an idea in the 1990’s, but didn’t get off the ground.  The Tribeca Film Festival began in 2002, in an attempt to revitalize the neighborhood after the devastating effects of 9/11.    The first film festival, in April 2002, drew 150,000 people.  The festival doubled its numbers with the 2003 festival. Festival founder Robert DeNiro bought Tribeca Cinemas (a former bakery building!) in 2003.  The original 2002 festival included a “Best of New York” series, which was curated by Martin Scorcese.  It also hosted the premieres of several large studio films, including Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, Spiderman 3 and About a Boy.  Today the festival has hosted 2 million people and has brought half of a billion dollars in economic activity!

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TV and Movies of New York

B- Ghostbusters Fire Station at 110 N Moore Street

No fan of the 1984 classic film “Ghostbusters” or its sequel should visit New York without stopping by the firehouse.   The firehouse, (actually the home of FDNY Hook and Ladder #8), is the headquarters of the Ghostbusters in the film.  This is shown to be where Dan Aykroyd, Bill Ghostbusters Firehouse Film TourMurray and Harold Ramis slept and worked.  It also housed The Containment Unit (where trapped ghosts were held) and storage for Ecto-1.  The Hook and Ladder #8 firehouse was only used for the exterior in the film, however.  The interior shots were done at a decommissioned firehouse in Los Angeles.  This particular firehouse caught the eye of Dan Aykroyd while he and Harold Ramis were writing the screenplay for the original film.  He used to walk around the area with the cast of Saturday Night Live and thought that the 19th century firehouse was perfect for The Ghostbusters.  Read our full post on finding this firehouse and other GhostBuster film locations in NYC.

Photo By Phillip Ritz from New York, NY, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

C- “It Could Happen To You”, “Enchanted” and “City Island”

Though it may not look like much, this corner has seen some major productions.  The first was in the summer of 1994.  Residents of Tribeca were surprised to see two new buildings appear on this corner, seemingly overnight.  One was a Federal-style rowhouse with a 1950’s diner on the first floor.  These buildings were actually a set for the film “It Could Happen To You.”  In the film, Nicolas Cage’s cop character shares his lottery winnings with a diner waitress (Bridget Fonda) in lieu of a tip.  The set that the crew built was so realistic that passers-by kept coming in during the filming asking for takeout menus!  The diner set was used for interior and exterior shots and then was taken down immediately after filming.

This corner saw another  film set in 2008, when the Disney film “Enchanted” was shooting in New York.  Giselle, the doe-eyed princess played by Amy Adams, is trying to get home from New York to Andalasia.  She thinks she has spotted her way home on this corner, and she knocks on the door of the sparkly castle that she has spotted.  It turns out to be a billboard for a casino.

The corner was used again for the film “City Island”.  Andy Garcia’s prison guard/wannabe actor character comes here to audition for a film with Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese.  He is daunted by the line that starts at this corner and goes around the block.

D- The Odeon

Before this neighborhood was called Tribeca, it was a gritty wholesale district called Washington Market.  The restaurant was a workingman’s cafeteria.  It became The Odeon in the 1980’s and was a part of the entire area’s transition from grungy to trendy.  (NOTE:  The Odeon’s bar is credited with creating the cocktail “The Cosmopolitan.”  This beverage would become world famous through the TV show “Sex and the City”.) The Odeon was featured in the film “Bright Lights, Big City,” the adaptation of Jay McInerney’s novel.  The restaurant is also seen in Martin Scorsese’s “Life Lessons,” a part of the trilogy “New York Stories.”  Nick Nolte’s character (a painter) sends Steve Buschemi’s performance artist character flying through the plate glass partition.  This is a nod to the bar fights that were common in the 1950’s New York art scene.

Take a quick look across the street at the Art-Deco office building across West Broadway.  This was seen in the film “Revolutionary Road”. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character drags himself to work in the building throughout the film.

E- Engine Company 7 and Ladder 1 Firehouse- 100 Duane Street

This firehouse has an interesting a tragic association with film and television.  In the summer of 2001, filmmakers Gideon and Jules Naudet began shooting a documentary about the day-to-day lives of the firefighters.  They were with them on September 11, 2001 when the firefighters responded to a call about a gas leak a little north of the firehouse.  They were on the call when they heard a roar approaching from the north. They looked up and captured what has become a very recognizable image: a plane hitting the North Tower at the World Trade Center.  Because of Engine 7’s proximity, they were among the first to the Trade Center.  They were also some of the first to make it out.  Though the plaque on the firehouse lists members killed dating back to the 1800’s, the company did not have any losses on 9/11.

F- Foley Square

This square is in the heart of New York’s civic center and houses its iconic court buildings.  Though New Yorkers will recognize this area from serving jury duty, fans of legal dramas will recognize it from a myriad of films and TV shows.  The New York County Courthouse, built in 1901, has provided the setting for every ADA on “Law and Order” and its spinoffs to address mobs of reporters or exchange biting remarks with opposing council.  Films shot here included the remake of “Shaft” (starring Samuel L. Jackson), and “The Devil’s Advocate” with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino.  These famous steps were also seen in “12 Angry Men,” one of the first films to ever be shot on location in New York City. Foley Square is seen extensively in the film “Greencard,” with Andie McDowell and Gerard Depardieu.  Several of the pivotal scenes of the film are shot here in the square.

G – City Hall Park

From this park you can see three of Lower Manhattan’s most iconic buildings, which have been utilized in film and television productions.

Tweed Courthouse– This courthouse was notorious when it was built because William “Boss” Tweed used the construction to embezzle millions of dollars.  Despite the buildings beginnings, it is a beautiful and imposing building that has provided a great setting for all kinds of legal dramas.  This courthouse is the setting of the bitter custody battle at the center of the film “Kramer vs Kramer,” starring Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman.  The interiors also used in the film “The Verdict,” with Paul Newman, even though that courthouse was meant to be in Boston!  This building also provides the interiors for the countless courtroom scenes in “Law and Order.”  The building today serves as the headquarters for the Department of Education.

The Surrogate’s Courthouse– This building was constructed in 1901 as the Hall of Records.  The entryway is so beautiful and ornate that it has been used by filmmakers as dozens of iconic New York spaces.  In “Great Expectations” with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow it was used as the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It was used again as a museum space in “The Devil Wears Prada” with Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, this time as The American Museum of Natural History.

The Municipal Building– This building houses many of NYC’s government offices.  But, because of its beauty, it is often used as a stand in for other buildings (much like the Surrogate’s Courthouse.)  It is used as the City Hall in “The Ghostbusters,” where they come roaring out with the National Guard after convincing the mayor to let them save the city.  The arcade, with its beautiful arches and wide steps leading down to the subway is seen in “The Devil’s Advocate” and “Great Expectations.”  It’s most memorable appearance is probably in Crocodile Dundee, where the title character politely shows a would-be mugger what a real knife looks like, waving away his switchblade.

The Brooklyn Bridge

This beautiful bridge has been capturing filmmakers’ imaginations since the camera was invented and is arguably NYC’s biggest film star. Members of the Edison and Biograph companies shot some of the very first moving pictures of the bridge.  It was seen in the 1940’s film “On the Town” with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.  Sinatra filmed on the bridge another time for the film “It Happened In Brooklyn.”  The bridge has been seen hundreds of times since then, in everything from “Sophie’s Choice” to Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues.”    The bridge is particularly popular for romantic film moments.  The walkway is the spot where Miranda and Steve reunite at the ends of “Sex and the City” and where Woody Allen proclaims his love for Diane Keaton in “Annie Hall.”  Read our full post on how to visit the Brooklyn Bridge.

City Hall

This beautiful building is actually where the Mayor’s Office for Film and Television was created, so it is fitting that it is featured on screen many times!  The front steps are seen in countless films, usually showing a hero being given the keys to the city.  Nicholas Cage’s cop character receives an award on these steps in “It Could Happen To You,” based on the true story of an NYPD officer who shares his lottery winnings with a waitress because he couldn’t tip her on an earlier visit.  The interior is rarely used for filming. Usually it is re-created on a soundstage, as in “Spin City” with Michael J. Fox.  Sometimes, however, as with “City Hall” starring Al Pacino, the actual interior space is used.  Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg appeared as himself inside City Hall on episodes of “30 Rock” and “Law and Order.”  Did you know that you can tour City Hall for free?

City Hall Park, Beekman Street Entrance

This small park has been a public green space for more than 200 years!  Back in the colonial era of New York, this was where New Yorkers grazed their livestock.  The park was restored to its 19th century appearance a few years ago, including the beautiful and ornate fountain.  This caught the attention of the filmmaker Andy Tennant who was directing the comedy “Hitch,” starring Will Smith.  He used the picturesque park for a hilarious scene where Will Smith drags Eva Mendes through the park while suffering the effects of too much allergy medication.

C -Park Row and the Woolworth Building

Park Row, off to the side, was the world’s first media center.  It was the home of the early New York newspapers, such as The Tribune, The Herald and The Times, as well as the location for the Associated Press.  Park Row is also where P.T. Barnum debuted Tom Thumb and the original Siamese Twins.  Park Row has been a part of media and entertainment since well before the advent of film and television.

The Woolworth Building became a part of the cityscape in 1913, and was the tallest skyscraper in the entire world when it was completed.  The ornate, Gothic building is also exceptionally beautiful, and has long been popular with filmmakers.  The Woolworth Building was used for the climactic scene in 2008’s “Enchanted” with Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey and Susan Sarandon.  The final showdown between the fairy-tale princess Giselle and her evil stepmother takes place on the roof of the building after a ball that was held inside.  It was also used in the recent Baz Luhrman adaptation of “The Great Gatsby” as the office where Nick Carraway (Toby McGuire) works as a stockbroker for Chase.  The Woolworth Building has also been used in multiple television shows, including “Ugly Betty,” where is it shown to be the headquarters of the fictional Mode Magazine.  You can also tour the Woolworth Building.

The World Trade Center

The new buildings going up at the Trade Center are beautiful, but few people will ever forget what the original, iconic World Trade Center looked like.  Because of the sheer height of the Twin Towers, they were shown in hundreds of films while they were standing, even if it was just an establishing shot of the New York City skyline.  They immediately offered the viewer a clue as to what city the story was taking place in.  Several films were actually shot within the Trade Center though.  Some attempts by filmmakers worked better than others.  Many found themselves frustrated by the space and felt that the enormous building dwarfed everything around.  This was true of the musical number in “The Wiz” that was shot in the plaza, as well as a scene in the 1977 remake of “King Kong.”  The World Trade Center could even make King Kong look tiny!  It worked out better for other films, however.  The Twin Towers conveyed power and strength, making them a perfect setting for the CIA’s New York Headquarters in “Three Days of the Condor,” directed by Sydney Pollock.

After 9/11, the area took on an entirely different meaning, but it continued to be shown in films.  In Spike Lee’s “25th Hour,” Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper look down on the 24-hour-a-day recovery efforts at Ground Zero from an apartment window.

1 Liberty Plaza and 140 Broadway

1 Liberty Plaza was originally built for the US Steel Corporation, which wanted to showcase its main product, steel, on their building.  This is why the steels beams are prominently displayed on the outside of the building, rather than used in the interior like they normally are.  This gives the building a unique and formidable appearance, which made it ideal as the New York headquarters of the FBI in “The Siege.”    In the film, the impenetrable-looking building is attacked by a truck bomb, which was reminiscent of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

140 Broadway was designed by the same architects as 1 Liberty Plaza, but has a much sleeker appearance.  The black monolith with its tilted red cube caught the eye of several filmmakers.  It was used by Alan Pakula in his 1971 crime thriller “Klute” as the office of the film’s central character.  In “An Unmarried Woman,” Jill Clayburgh visits the building, which is shown to be the office of her stockbroker ex-husband (who has recently left her for a younger woman.)  The building has been used by films to symbolize ominous forces, greed and power.

Trinity Church

Trinity Church has been a part of New York City since the end of the 17th century.  The brownstone building, with its magnificent spire, was at one point the tallest structure in Lower Manhattan.  even though it seems small compared with its surroundings, this beautiful building has been used by many film crews (particularly popular for period films).  It was shown in the 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby” with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.  It is also heavily featured in the climactic scene of “National Treasure,” where it is shown to be the hiding spot for a huge underground cavern full of Masonic treasures, which is uncovered by historical treasure-hunter Nicholas Cage.  Trinity Church is also featured in the 1956 film “Patterns,” one of the earliest films to be shot on location in the city.  Though the church is not actually seen in the film, its bells are heard from the office building a block away, where the action of the film takes place.  The constantly tolling bells heighten the drama that takes place in the film.

Federal Hall National Memorial and The New York Stock Exchange

Federal Hall National Memorial, with its bronze statue of George Washington, marks the spot of our first presidential inauguration.  It is also seen in the film “Ghost,” when spirit Patrick Swayze convinces phony spiritualist Whoopi Goldberg to give away a four million dollar check that she has received from a nearby bank.  (The startled nun who receives the check was played by the screenwriter’s mother.)

The New York Stock Exchange has an imposing exterior that has been seen in many films, but the trading room floor had always been off-limits to film crews.  This changed when Oliver Stone gained access to the interior to shoot his memorable portrait of the financial world in 1987’s “Wall Street,” starring Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Daryl Hannah and Martin Sheen.  Stone’s own father was a stockbroker and held a seat on the Exchange Committee.  Stone was granted 45 minutes, which he used to film actually stockbrokers rushing around the trading floor.

Broad Street and Exchange Place

Look at the white stone building down the block. This building was used in Spike Lee’s 2006 film “Inside Man” with Denzel Washington and Clive Owen.  In the film, the building is The Manhattan Trust Bank, where an intense hostage situation takes place.  Spike Lee featured every part of the building, from the eerie looking gargoyles to the blank, stony lower walls, which seem to shut out the outside world.

If you look across the street you will see 30 Broad Street, which is easily recognized as The Larrabee Building, home of the Larrabee family company in Billy Wilder’s “Sabrina,” starring Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.  Audrey Hepburn, playing the daughter of the Larrabee family chauffeur, comes to visit business tycoon Linus Larrabee at his office in this building many times throughout the film.

Bowling Green

This tiny park was the very first public park in New York City, built in 1733.  Before the park was built, however, it was still used as a public space, dating all the way back to the Dutch settlers of New Amsterdam.  This park has been seen in many newsreels throughout history showing ticker tape parades.  New York honored many people with these festive parades, from Charles Lindbergh to John Glenn.   This particular section of Broadway is called “The Canyon of Heroes,” and the parades start right here.

Many of the buildings around the park have been used in films, including the beautiful Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House (now the Museum of the American Indian.)  This beautiful building was used in the film “Ghostbusters 2” as the Museum of Art.  In the film, an evil spirit escapes from a medieval painting and terrorizes the streets of New York.   It was also used by Mike Nichols in his film “Working Girl” as the mysterious headquarters of Trask Industries.

2 Broadway was used in the Billy Wilder classic “The Apartment” as the office building of Jack Lemmon’s junior accountant character.  The opening of the film shows the towering building’s facade and then goes inside to show the rows of desks filled with employees and then finally shows Jack Lemmon himself.

Bowling Green, Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty

It would probably be impossible to name every single film that has shown Lady Liberty.  There have been some standouts, however.  In the opening of “Working Girl” there was a dramatic shot of the statue taken from a helicopter as it circled the crown.  In the film “Splash” starring Daryl Hannah and Tom Hanks, the film’s mermaid character turns into a human and takes her first steps by the base of the statue, appalling passing tourists with her nudity.

If you look to the right of the statue, you will see Ellis Island.  This processing center was the point of entry for over 12 million Americans.  It was also seen in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film “The Godfather: Part II.”  The film shows a young Vito Corleone trying to gain entry to America in the early 1900’s at Ellis Island.  He is detained in a holding area on the island.  The film was actually shot on Ellis Island, though it hadn’t been in use as an immigration center for quite some time by that point.  This was before the major renovation of the buildings in the 1980s that turned the island into the popular museum that you can visit today.  The island can also be seen (in its restored glory) in “Hitch,” when Will Smith attempts to woo Eva Mendes by taking her via Jet Ski for a private tour at Ellis Island.

The promenade that you are standing on was featured in the very first feature-length film ever made in New York.  It was a 1913 film called “Traffic and Souls.”  The film shows the promenade as a newly arrived Swedish immigrant girl gets off the ferry from Ellis Island.  She is approached by a stranger who attempts to lure her into a slavery ring.  Some New Yorkers thought that an actual abduction was taking place when the film was being shot and tried to intervene on the girl’s behalf.  They were relieved and amused when they saw the two actors laughing together in the back of a limousine that was taking them back uptown.

Head to Gangway 6 on the promenade.  This was shown in the film “Mirage” with Gregory Peck, a Manhattan man who doesn’t seem to know anything about his life or who he is.  He also doesn’t know why there are many mysterious people who are trying to kill him.  In the film, he walks along the Battery Promenade to this spot, where he meets a beautiful stranger, whom he hopes can help solve the mystery of who he is.  This spot is used again in another film about lost identity: the 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan.”  In the film, a housewife is attacked and hit over the head by a man who has mistaken her for another woman. (Susan, played by Madonna.)  In this spot, the housewife’s purse with her ID falls into the water, losing her original identity and marking the beginning of her life as Susan.

The benches facing the water were a location for the 1997 film “Men In Black.”  This is where Tommy Lee Jones sits and tries to recruit promising up-and-comer Will Smith for his top-secret agency.  Sitting in this spot, he reveals to Will Smith’s character that there are a few thousand aliens living among us in New York.  Most of them, he add, are “good folks,” just trying to get along.