Downey Studios from “Christmas with the Kranks”Dec 23rd, 2013 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
Back in early 2011, while doing some research on filming locations from Christmas with the Kranks, I just about fell off my chair when I discovered – thanks to Google Street View – that the backlot residential street at Downey Studios, which served as the main neighborhood in the 2004 comedy, was visible from the road. And while I ran right out to stalk it shortly thereafter, for whatever reason, when the holidays rolled around that year and the following year, I somehow forgot to blog about the place. Sadly, the entire studio was leveled in late 2012, so while this post is now somewhat obsolete, I figured the site was still blog-worthy. There’s no time like the present, right?
Before it became home to Downey Studios, the 160-acre site located on the corner of North Lakewood Boulevard and Imperial Highway was home to an aircraft manufacturing facility that produced Apollo modules and space shuttle fleets for NASA for almost 40 years. When Boeing shut the plant down in 1999, the property was purchased by the city of Downey. An 80-acre portion of it was subsequently turned into Downey Studios, one of the largest production facilities in the United States, complete with two soundstages, the biggest indoor water tank in North America, a lake the size of a football field and over 360,000 square feet of production space.
In late 2003, Christmas and the Kranks director Joe Roth and production designer Garreth Stover started scouting neighborhoods for their upcoming Chicago-set holiday-themed movie. They didn’t have much luck, though, so they did what any Hollywood executives with deep pockets would do – they built their own, in an empty portion of Downey Studios. The Coming Soon website states, “Stover actually scouted 15 neighborhoods in the Chicago area and decided on Winnetka. The problem was that shooting for 10-12 weeks in the spring, they’d have to kick families out of their homes for the Easter/Passover holiday season. They would have to defoliate all the trees to make them look like winter. The sight lines wouldn’t match. In the plot, certain neighbors would have to witness certain events, and the actual layout of the Winnetka street made that impossible. But most importantly, they could never control the snow they would have to for the film’s snowstorm climax. So, Stover built a model and pitched director Joe Roth the idea of building Hemlock Street in Los Angeles.” $5 million and 12 weeks later, Downey Studios’ residential street was born. You can read a fabulous Variety article about the construction here.
The street consisted of 16 houses, four of which were practical (meaning that the interiors could also be used for filming), and 11 facades.
When Christmas with the Kranks wrapped, the street was left intact for future productions to utilize, with Joe Roth receiving a portion of the rental revenue. Sadly though, due to runaway production and numerous health complaints, Downey Studios began to lose money and was eventually closed and then razed in 2012. A 77-acre shopping center named Tierra Luna Marketplace is currently being constructed on the vacant land.
You can see an aerial view of Downey Studios’ residential street via Google Maps below. When it was still standing, Congressman Steve Horn Way and Bellflower Boulevard provided a fabulous view of the place. It is absolutely heartbreaking to me that it is no longer there.
The street was (obviously) used extensively in Christmas with the Kranks.
Especially the two-story clapboard and stone residence where the Krank family – Luther (Tim Allen), Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Blair (Julie Gonzalo) – lived.
The Krank house was one of the street’s practical sets in which interior filming took place.
The very same residence was used four years later as Angie Anderson’s (Amber Heard) home in Pineapple Express (bottom screen shot below). A porch was added to the exterior of the dwelling for the filming, but as you can see below, the bay window, stone work and windows that flank the front door match the Krank abode (top screen capture below).
The Krank’s kitchen (top) also matches Angie’s kitchen in Pineapple Express (bottom);
as does the Krank’s study (top) and Angie’s dining room (bottom);
and the Krank’s entryway (top) and Angie’s entryway (bottom).
In 2005, one of the Downey Studios residential street homes was used as the Lawrence, Kansas-area childhood home of Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki) and Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) in the pilot episode of Supernatural.
The street also popped up at the very end of the Jonas Brothers music video for their 2009 song “Paranoid.”
You can watch that video by clicking below.
For more stalking fun, be sure to follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Los Angeles magazine online. And you can check out my other blog, The Well-Heeled Diabetic, here.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The now defunct Downey Studios, from Christmas with the Kranks, was formerly located at 12214 Lakewood Boulevard in Downey.