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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

12 Abandoned Movie Sets You Can Actually Visit

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Although movie productions often film scenes on location, sometimes a real-life location doesn’t offer all of the right places that are called for in the script. So they build it! But taking that set back down isn’t always a top priority. Whether it’s because the property owner wants to keep the space intact for tourism purposes or because it’s simply cheaper to leave the set behind instead of cleaning it up, there are pieces of cinematic history in every corner of the world. Here are 12 of them.

1. THE AFRICAN QUEEN (1951)

Although the cargo ship, originally named “The Livingston,” was built in 1912 for the East Africa British Railways company, director John Huston spotted the vessel on the Ruki River in the Democratic Republic of Congo and wanted to give it the titular role in his Oscar-winning film, The African Queen. After the film grew in popularity, a San Francisco businessman bought the ship—now renamed after the movie—and transported it to the United States to attract tourists and movie fans. Throughout the decades, the steamboat changed hands a few times before finding its way to an attorney based in Florida in 1982, who owned (and sailed) it until his death in 2001.

In 2012, Suzanne and Lance Holmquist leased “The African Queen” and completely restored it with a new interior steel-hull frame and replacement boiler, but kept its rustic and worn-out charm. The ship now offers daily tours and dinner cruises on the Port Largo Canal.

2. A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964)

Located in the middle of the Tabernas Desert in Almeria, Spain, you’ll find a large abandoned Western frontier that was the shooting location for Sergio Leone’s The Man With No Name Trilogy: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; and Once Upon A Time in the West. The movie set featured Old Mexico-style churches, a saloon, and a hangman’s noose in its public square, and was used for many other Spaghetti westerns in the 1960s and ’70s. Since the genre’s decline in popularity, the movie set has since been abandoned, but fans still flock to what has become known as Fort Bravo/Texas Hollywood.

3. POPEYE (1980) 

In 1979, Paramount Pictures and Disney co-produced Popeye with Robin Williams as the titular sailor man and Shelley Duvall as his main squeeze Olive Oyl. The live-action musical was filmed in Malta, where director Robert Altman and his crew spent seven months building a full-scale Sweethaven on the island’s coast, then another seven months shooting the film. When production wrapped, the Sweethaven set remained in Malta and was converted into Popeye Village, which is now a family resort.

4. FULL METAL JACKET (1987)

Stanley Kubrick hated to travel, even if a film’s script dictated it. Which meant he had to get extra creative on occasion. Case in point: Full Metal Jacket, which required the director to transform the East London borough of Newham into Vietnam. Thousands of palm trees and plastic tropical plants were imported from Spain and Hong Kong to re-dress the abandoned Beckton Gas Works manufacturing plant in London into the bombed out movie set of the ruins of Huế in Vietnam. Beckton Gas Works is still standing and a popular tourist attraction with Stanley Kubrick fans.

5. SCHINDLER’S LIST (1993)

While a majority of Schindler’s List was filmed at the true story’s actual locations in Poland, a replica of Kraków-Płaszów was the only movie set built, which is located in Liban Quarry, about four miles away from Kraków. The film’s production team built barracks, watchtowers, and a road leading into the Nazi labor and concentration camp from the original blueprints and plans. A replica of Amon Goeth’s (Ralph Fiennes) villa was also built above the labor camp site.

6. THE FUGITIVE (1993)

At the beginning of The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble narrowly escapes from a prison transport bus that collides with a speeding freight train. The debris from the iconic scene is still located near the Smoky Mountain Railroad in Dillsboro, North Carolina. The collision scene alone cost a whopping $1.5 million and was filmed in only one take. The remains of the bus and train were abandoned after production wrapped because it was cheaper to simply leave them behind rather than clean it up. Today, it’s one of the many points of interest on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s Tuckasegee River Excursion.

7. THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2001-2003) AND THE HOBBIT (2012-2014)

Located in Matamata, New Zealand, Peter Jackson picked an area of farmland as the filmsite for Hobbiton and The Shire for his The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Construction on building Hobbit Holes, gardens, a double arch bridge, and a small mill began in early 1999 before shooting started at the end of the year. When the first film in the trilogy became a runaway success, tourists and J.R.R. Tolkien fans began to flock to the movie set, despite it being abandoned after production wrapped a year earlier.

When Warner Bros. announced that Peter Jackson would make a film adaptation of The Hobbit, a permanent and operational Hobbiton was rebuilt at the same location in Matamata for production in 2011. Once filming wrapped, the Hobbiton set was turned over to the farmland’s owners, who included a detailed replica of the interiors of the movie sets that were filmed at Wellington Stone Street Studios. Additionally, The Shires Rest Cafe and The Green Dragon Inn bar are included as part of the two-hour guided tours of the movie set.

8. BIG FISH (2003)

The fictional town of Spectre, Alabama in Tim Burton’s Big Fish was an elaborate movie set built on the Alabama River near the city of Montgomery. During the course of Big Fish, the town of Spectre increasingly gets more rundown with wear and tear through the decades, as the character of Edward Bloom (played by both Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney) returns to it throughout his life. Some of the set’s buildings and storefronts have now collapsed from decay, exposing Styrofoam trees and moss. The movie set is located on private property, but $3 can get you access inside.

9. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003)

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was mainly filmed on location at Wallilabou Anchorage on the main island of St. Vincent on the Caribbean Sea. Disney built elaborate pirate ships, replica cannons, and authentic period docks and marketplaces for the 2003 sequel. Production abandoned a majority of the movie sets on Wallilabou Anchorage, turning it into a very popular tourist attraction.

10. THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

Director Alexandre Aja’s 2006 remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes was filmed on location in Morocco. Gas Haven, a 1950s-style gas station, was built specifically for the horror movie, but was abandoned once production wrapped. It remains in the province of Souss-Massa-Draa, about 20 minutes outside of Ouarzazate, so feel free to visit the deserted movie set (but watch out for crazy mutants).

11. THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)

While The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, Henry River Mill Village in Burke County, North Carolina was used to film the very poor District 12. The small village was home to North Carolina’s once-thriving textile industry during the early 20th century, but has since become a ghost town due to the sharp decline in manufacturing in the state. It found new life as District 12 in 2011, as The Hunger Games production team re-fashioned Henry River Mill Village’s buildings, storefronts, and abandoned homes to match the film’s tone. Henry River Mill Village is located on private property, but there are tours and photo opportunities available.

12. ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012)

The war-torn backdrop featured in Zero Dark Thirty was not entirely filmed on location in Afghanistan; some of it was shot at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita Valley, California. The movie set remains unused, but the film’s props—such as a downed helicopter—are still scattered around. The owners of the ranch call it, “an Afghanistan-town set that is so real the U.S. military uses it for training purposes.”

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10 Fun Facts About Spice World
Hulton Archive, Getty Images
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

In 1996, the Spice Girls took the world by storm when they released the song “Wannabe” from their debut album, Spice. Their mantra of “Girl Power” inspired a generation of young women to “Spice Up Your Life.” After Spice sold 31 million copies worldwide, the inevitable next step was the Girls starring on the big screen. So 20 years ago, on January 23, 1998, Columbia Pictures unleashed Spice World on American moviegoers.

In their film debut, the Girls—Melanie Brown (Scary Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice), Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), and Victoria Beckham (Posh Spice)—played comical versions of themselves. The plot revolved around them trying to perform their biggest show yet, at London's Royal Albert Hall, while a tabloid newspaper reporter spied on them. And their best friend went into labor. And Ginger Spice kissed an alien.

Director Bob Spiers recruited several British luminaries to cameo, with Roger Moore, Bob Hoskins, Elvis Costello, Jennifer Saunders, and Elton John among those who appeared in the film. The Spice Girls were so popular that Prince Charles and his sons, Princes William and Harry, attended the Spice World premiere.

The movie, budgeted at $25 million, grossed a robust $100 million worldwide, despite Roger Ebert giving it a half-star rating and writing that the Girls were “so detached they can’t even successfully lip-synch their own songs.”

Spice World was nominated for seven Razzies, and won one: Worst Actress, an honor shared by all five Girls. In a 2007 UK poll, it was voted the worst film ever made. But over the years the film has endured. Esquire suggested it was better than The Beatles’s A Hard’s Day Night, and the podcast How Did This Get Made? spent more than an hour debating the film’s ridiculous plot.

Though the best-selling girl group of all time disbanded in 2000, Spice World remains a relic of Spice Mania. On its 20th anniversary, here are 10 fun facts about the film.

1. IT TOOK ONLY A YEAR FROM THE IDEA TO THE FINISHED FILM.

Prince Charles and Prince Harry pose with Spice Girls Victoria Beckham Mel C
WALTER DHLADHLA, AFP, Getty Images

Barnaby Thompson, one of the film’s producers, started a production company with Annie Lennox’s husband at the time, Uri Fruchtmann. Lennox and the Girls shared the same manager, Simon Fuller. Over lunch, Fuller, Fruchtmann, Thompson, and Fuller’s brother Kim decided they’d make the movie. "We finished it within a year of that lunch," Thompson told The Telegraph. "That lunch was on November 1, 1996 and we delivered the film exactly a year later, November 1, 1997."

2. THE GIRLS STOPPED TRAFFIC IN FRANCE.

By May 1997, the Girls had four number-one singles in the UK, and were one of the most popular music groups in the world. To create anticipation for Spice World, the producers took the women to the Cannes Film Festival, even though the film hadn’t been shot yet. "We put out a photo call notice," publicist Dennis Davidson said. "The traffic on the Croisette came to a standstill, there was a screaming crowd, people hanging out of the windows, it was totally insane." An estimated 5000 to 10,000 people showed up to see the pop stars. The film shot around London between June and August of 1997.

3. RICHARD E. GRANT’S DAUGHTER FORCED HIM TO DO THE MOVIE.

Richard E. Grant attends 'Their Finest' after party during the 60th BFI London Film Festival at on October 13, 2016.
John Phillips, Getty Images for BFI

Richard E. Grant’s 9-year-old daughter was a fan of the Spice Girls and when he was offered the part of the Girls’ manager, Clifford, she told him he had to do it, despite his concerns about “my acting credibility.” “And she’d say, ‘No, no, you have to. You have to because I want to meet them,’” Grant told Vulture in 2014. “So I did, and she was so thrilled. I had school playground credibility for about two semesters and then of course you dip into the other side when they go, ‘No, I was never a Spice Girls fan!’ Now that generation has all come back around again going, ‘Yeah, we love the Spice Girls!’”

4. SHAKESPEARE HELPED CAST ALAN CUMMING.

Alan Cumming played a less-than-Shakespearean role in the movie as a paparazzo-like guy named Piers Cuthbertson-Smyth. Ginger Spice was the one who suggested him to the casting department. “I remember seeing Alan Cumming performing as Hamlet [at the Donmar Warehouse],” she told The Telegraph. “When it came to Spice World, however many years later, it came to casting and we were going through pictures and I was like, ‘Let’s pick him, I saw him in Hamlet.’ It was brilliant to have that caliber of actors to be in our funny movie.”

5. YOU CAN VISIT THE SPICE BUS.

The Spice Girls arrive atop a double decker bus for a screening of their new movie 'Spice World' in New York.
HENNY RAY ABRAMS, AFP, Getty Images

The 1978 British Leyland Bristol VRTSL3 double decker bus, covered with the Union Jack on the outside and a swing on the inside, made its debut in the movie. Though a bomb destroyed it at the end of the movie, in real life it was saved. However, after filming ended the bus fell into disrepair, until the Island Harbour Marina, located on the Isle of Wight, purchased the beauty and restored it to its original state. They put it on permanent display in July 2014. The only thing the bus is missing is Meat Loaf driving it.

6. WITHNAIL AND I CONVINCED ELVIS COSTELLO TO MAKE A CAMEO.

In an interview with The A.V. Club, Elvis Costello said he loved Richard E. Grant’s film Withnail and I. “You know, I thought, ‘If I go to IMDb, I’m only a couple of clicks away from Withnail!,’” he said. Costello, who plays a barman in the movie, said he found his role to be “ironic.” “I’d only quit drinking a couple of years before, so I think the idea of being a barman was sort of ironic in my mind.”

7. THE PRODUCTION MADE SURE THE GIRLS DIDN’T READ THE SCRIPT.

Kim Fuller wrote the script (with additional writing from Jamie Curtis), which was originally titled Five. He knew the Girls might not like the script, or even read it. He gathered the ladies in a hotel in London. “I went in and said, ‘Look, turn your phones off, this is serious. I’m going to read you the story,’” he said.

They liked the story, and Ginger Spice contributed script ideas, even when she was in Bali. “I was spending hours on the phone trying to get it all sorted out and make sure that it was right,” she said. “By the time that we started, it was almost perfect.”

8. BUT THEY DIDN’T STICK TO THE SCRIPT.

Fuller said he gave them daily script pages and then they rehearsed it. “You needed to catch them at the right moment, when the energy is there,” Fuller said. “They’re not going to do 20 takes of one line, you know, so you had to think quickly on your feet.” In the Spice World documentary, Mel B confessed that she and the Girls interpreted the script. “We contributed our own little sparkle on top of it,” she said. “There were some times when we’d say the lines wrong just to make us laugh,” Baby Spice added. But those improvisations caused the script supervisor to almost quit.

"The script lady went beserk and nearly resigned because we kept changing everything," Fuller told The Telegraph. "There were a lot of flowers and we consoled her for a while and everything was fine after that."

9. THE GIRLS RECORDED AN ALBUM WHILE FILMING.

Their first album was such a massive hit that they needed to record their sophomore album to keep up the momentum. In order to fit in filming the movie and recording Spiceworld (one word), they had a mobile studio on set. They ended up writing some of the album’s—and movie’s—songs during production.

“It was quite good doing the album at the same time as the film because we were always hyperactive after a day on set and that meant we could go in the mobile studio and vibe off each other,” Posh told The Telegraph. They managed to film during the day and record at night. Virgin Records released the album on November 3, 1997, and most of Spiceworld’s songs made it into the movie, which meant there was an unofficial soundtrack.

10. MEL C LOVES THE MOVIE.

Melanie Chisholm (Sporty Spice) at the premiere of 'Spice World'
Brenda Chase, Getty Images

Mel C told The Telegraph that the film was difficult for her to watch, but when her daughter and friends wanted to watch it at a birthday party, Mel changed her mind. “I sat down with them and I actually really enjoyed it,” she said. “I laughed out loud. It brought back so many memories, and I think enough time has passed for me to be able to watch myself. You know in a way, it is brilliant. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, very silly. And the thing that I really realized was there was so much of us in it. It was very, very real.”

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Here's The Full List of 2018 Oscar Nominations
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

There are only two things that can get Hollywood’s biggest stars out of bed at 5 a.m.: an early call time or Academy Award nominations. The nominees for the 90th annual Oscars were announced on Tuesday morning, and represented a great year in movies.

Guillermo del Toro’s merman-meets-woman love story The Shape of Water leads this year’s nominees with a total of 13 nominations, followed by Martin McDonagh’s divisive Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which received nine nominations.

Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig both made some Oscar history with their nominations for Best Director: Peele is the fifth black director to compete for the statuette (joining John Singleton, Lee Daniels, Steve McQueen, and Barry Jenkins—none of whom have won the award) while Gerwig is the fifth woman to be nominated for the prize (in 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first female Best Director winner with The Hurt Locker).

The Academy Awards will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for a second time, and will air on March 4, 2018. Which movies will you be rooting for on Oscar night?

BEST PICTURE

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

LEAD ACTOR

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

LEAD ACTRESS

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

DIRECTOR

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

ANIMATED FEATURE

The Boss Baby, Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
Coco, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha
Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

ANIMATED SHORT

Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant
Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon
Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray
Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata
Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema
Mudbound, Rachel Morrison
The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman
Faces Places, JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda
Icarus, Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan
Last Men in Aleppo, Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen
Strong Island, Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright
Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel
Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon
Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon
Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk
The Eleven O’Clock, Derin Seale, Josh Lawson
My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson, Jr.
The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton
Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
The Insult (Lebanon)
Loveless (Russia)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Square (Sweden)

FILM EDITING

Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Dunkirk, Lee Smith
I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel
The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory

SOUND EDITING

Baby Driver, Julian Slater
Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green
Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King
The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

SOUND MIXING

Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin
Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill
Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo
The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michael Semanick

PRODUCTION DESIGN

Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer
Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola
Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis
The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

ORIGINAL SCORE

Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer
Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

ORIGINAL SONG

"Mighty River" from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige
"Mystery of Love" from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens
"Remember Me" from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez
"Stand Up for Something" from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common
"This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

MAKEUP AND HAIR

Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick
Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard
Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

COSTUME DESIGN

Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran
Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran
Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges
The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira
Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle

VISUAL EFFECTS

Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick
Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus
Star Wars: The Last Jedi,  Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlon
War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

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