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The Sadr City Date Factory from “American Sniper”

Nov 18th, 2015 | By | Category: Movie Locations

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As I sat down to figure out what to write about for today’s post, I started getting worried that my location backlog was running low.  That worry was quickly amended as soon as I began perusing my inventory of stalking photographs and saw that was not the case at all.  I have so many locales stock-piled, in fact, that it is almost ridiculous!  One such spot that I visited last February, but somehow failed to do a post on is the abandoned El Centro warehouse that masked as an Iraqi factory in the 2014 drama American Sniper.

The warehouse was featured towards the end of American Sniper, during Chris Kyle’s (Bradley Cooper) fourth tour of duty in Sadr City.  I became fascinated by the location due to both the fact that it is abandoned (obviously!) and because cast and crew ventured all the way out to El Centro, an Imperial Valley city situated about 110 miles east of San Diego and a good 200 miles outside of the Thirty Mile Zone, to shoot there.  Most of the American Sniper war sequences were lensed on location in Morocco and on outdoor sets at the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch in Santa Clarita.  But I guess, for the “Tour Four” scenes, nothing matched the war-torn landscape of Sadr City better than a sleepy stretch of El Centro.  (The screen capture pictured below shows the northern side of the warehouse, an area that is, unfortunately, not accessible to the public.  My photograph is of the building’s eastern and southern sides.)

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I could find virtually no information online about the warehouse’s history, but according to the American Sniper production notes, the structure is a former milk processing plant that set designers transformed into an abandoned date factory for the shoot.

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As you can see below, the building looks much the same in person as it did onscreen, though the surrounding area was changed significantly via CGI.

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I found it fascinating to compare the aerial view of the warehouse shown in the movie to a real life aerial view.

 American Sniper Warehouse Aerial View

It is on the rooftop of the warehouse that Kyle makes his “impossible” 2,100-yard shot that takes out an enemy sniper in the movie.

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I believe the real life interior of the warehouse was also utilized in the filming.

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With its dilapidated exterior and surrounding dirt roads, it is not hard to see how the building came to be used in American Sniper.

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I found the structure to be eerily beautiful.

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I literally could have spent the entire day taking photos of it.

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The cracked, rusted detailing was mesmerizing.

American Sniper Abandoned Building

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The building located immediately northwest of the warehouse also made an appearance in American Sniper.

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That property is fabulously dilapidated, as well.

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And, thanks to Dr. Andreas Stavridis, the Asst. Professor of Engineering at the University of Buffalo, the site is actually even more run-down today than it was when American Sniper was shot.

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The two-story brick and concrete building was originally constructed in the 1920s and, over time, served as both a grocery warehouse and a cabinet store.  The property suffered severe damaged during the Mexicali earthquake in 2010  and was subsequently set to be demolished, until Stavridis stepped in.  Shortly after the earthquake, the engineer, who was then in the process of getting both his Masters and PhD at UC San Diego (my alma mater), approached the building’s owner and asked if he could conduct an experiment there.  The undertaking took four years to set in motion, but finally, in late 2014, several months after American Sniper had shot on the premises, Stavridis and team staged a fake earthquake on the structure’s second floor using a tool called a “shaker.”  The effects were then studied to determine the best way to retrofit similar concrete and brick properties in order to make them more quake resistant.  You can watch a fascinating video about the experiment here.

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It was Stavridis’ testing that caused most of the building’s large gaping holes.  According to the article, the experiment only damaged the second floor, which the owner is planning to remove before restoring the bottom level and re-opening it as a business.

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I must say, though, that the building fits in with the neighborhood in its current state.  The entire area looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland – and I mean that in the best way possible.

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There is even a graffitied train car, seemingly frozen in time, situated on the tracks that run adjacent to the buildings.

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The rooftop of the building located immediately south of the warehouse was also featured in American Sniper.  Although very little of the structure is visible in the movie, the triangular crenellation on the corners of the roofline are very recognizable from their onscreen appearance.

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You can watch some behind-the-scenes footage of the American Sniper scene being shot below.

For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: The American Sniper Sadr City date factory is located at the western end of the 300 block of Broadway Street in El Centro.

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One comment

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  1. katie says:

    wow, that would be amazing settings for people making their own apocalyptic or war torn short movies!


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