At this point in Pop Pilgrims, we’ve visited 29 locations, but only at three have we seen many people making their own pilgrimages while we were shooting: the Rocky steps, the park next to Kurt Cobain’s house, and Hook And Ladder Company 8, also known as the Ghostbusters firehouse.
During our shoot there on a Saturday afternoon in mid-June, we encountered a steady stream of people stopping, taking photos, and talking to the firefighters inside about the building—not bad for a film that came out 27 years ago. It’s a legacy FDNY seems to embrace; inside hangs the sign from the Ghostbusters sequel, and on the sidewalk out front is an FDNY emblem repurposed with a ghost.
Like a lot of famous film locations, Hook And Ladder 8 was only used for exterior shots. The interiors were filmed on sets and in a decommissioned firehouse in Los Angeles. That building in L.A. has been in legal limbo for years and fallen into a state of disrepair, while Hook And Ladder 8 faces a shutdown due to New York’s budget crisis.
New York politics affecting the future of the Ghostbusters firehouse is appropriate, considering how much the movie reflects the city. Like Texas heavily informing Friday Night Lights when the series shot in Austin, New York plays a critical role in Ghostbusters. It’s very much a New York movie.
“I think the portrait it paints is very realistic in that, these are New Yorkers, they don’t really get fazed by ghosts,” says Josh Rothkopf, our guest for this segment. “I mean, there’s ghosts, everyone gets scared. But if you set this in a suburb, say, or in let’s say a Midwestern city, you wouldn’t get that kind of beaten-down, survivalist, cynical New York vibe, which I think adds to the film.”
Director Ivan Reitman did little to alter the Hook And Ladder 8 building, but Sigourney Weaver’s apartment building looks different in real life than it does on screen.
“What they did with that was build it higher on a matte painting, obviously it’s not the real building, and superimposed that to make it look spookier and gothic,” Rothkopf says. “But most of the New York locations, with the exception of 55 Central Park West, are pretty much as-is.”
The shots from earlier in the movie were filmed at Columbia University, which was not interested in being recognized. “Columbia University let them shoot there with the one caveat that they never mention the school,” Rothkopf says. “You can shoot inside and outside and in classrooms, but can’t mention the name.”