top of page

Where Movies Are Made (It's A Trick Question)


Among the numerous fascinating visuals at the delightfully say-goodbye-to-whatever-you-had-planned-on-doing-today site Box Office Quant is this map. It's a map that logs the shooting locations of the top 2,000 films on IMDb, plus Tarsem's The Fall. Thanks to the efforts of Mr. Edmund Helmer, one of those guys whose free time and use thereof boggles the mind, we can now see on a map exactly where everything from The Dark Knight to Ferris Bueller's Day Off was filmed. (As it turns out, the answer is within a block of each other in downtown Chicago.)

This is ultimately somewhat arbitrary because the source library is so limited — being just one website run by Western film folk, albeit the most popular and massive film website in the world — but taking the macro view of this cinema map yields a curious sight. If one were to come upon it cold and be asked what it represents, all those dots spread all over the world, one could be forgiven for suggesting: the accumulated European diaspora. The most culturally influential cities in the West. Or simply, white people of the world.

Los Angeles is naturally a hub of filming sites; Manhattan and London are equally busy. Every major city in Europe has hosted many shoots; the same goes for every less-than-major city in the USA. Even Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has hosted more than a dozen films in the last 20 years. Meanwhile — Hyderabad, India, home of the Telugu film industry, one of the most prolific in the world? Zero films. Not one film of the 2,000 was shot in Hyderabad. What about neighboring Mumbai, seat of the Hindi industry? Well, it's seen a couple film shoots. Literally, two. They were Slumdog Millionaire and The Bourne Supremacy. Cairo, Egypt, has hosted five films. Sao Paulo, Brazil, also just two. Lagos, Nigeria hasn't hosted any. Ditto for Tehran, Iran.

This is, of course, absurd. All of those cities have been the shooting sites of hundreds upon hundreds of films over the years, producing some of the best and most entertaining movies of all time. The audience for Hindi films like Dilwale Dulhania le Jayenge was probably five times that of The Bourne Supremacy. Iran has won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year it won an Oscar.

I don't have a long rant here, because, like I said -- this map is just based on IMDb. I get it. But as the anonymous time-having internet gnomes continue to create new internet marvels, filling our news feeds with the fascinating and the useless, it's worth noting that IMDB's increasingly influential data set is, at best, underdeveloped. At worst, grossly biased. It reminds me of a posting from pal Mark Cousins asking who followers thought was the world's most famous singer. Elvis, naturally? Or Michael Jackson? Or maybe it was...this lady: Umm KulthumListen and enjoy.

bottom of page