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Woodsboro High School from “Scream”

Oct 18th, 2016 | By | Category: Haunted Hollywood, Movie Locations

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Earlier this month, my mom and I flew to Northern California and embarked upon an epic stalking tour of Scream filming locations.  And when I say epic, I mean epic!  We hit up everything from the grocery store where Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) and Tatum Riley (Rose McGowan) shopped (the owner of the market gifted me with a bottle of champagne!) to the warehouse where the sets were built to the hotel where the cast and crew stayed during the shoot.  I don’t think there’s any spot we missed – and we had a blast!  It truly was a family affair, too, with my mom, my aunt, two uncles, my longtime bestie Nat, and her boyfriend, Tony (that’s him standing with me above), all along for the ride.  Now none of them care at all about stalking, mind you, but it was so much fun being all together and getting to watch them experience firsthand this unique hobby that I love so much.  I wish I could go back and do it all over again!  The first spot we hit up during our Scream adventure was the Sonoma Community Center, which masked as Woodsboro High School in the 1996 flick.

Prior to heading up north, I contacted the Sonoma Community Center to ask if it would be alright to come inside the building and snap some photos.  The staff there could not have been nicer!  I received an email back almost immediately from an employee who offered to accompany me around the property and show me the specific areas that appeared in the movie, which I took him up on.  Scream’s use of the center was fairly extensive.  Exterior filming included shots of the front of the structure . . .


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. . . as well as its west entrance.


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Most interior filming took place on the community center’s second floor.  The spot I was most interested in seeing was the room that portrayed Sidney’s English class.  I had read several differing reports online regarding which room appeared in the scene and I hoped our tour guide could put the mystery to rest.  I showed him some screen captures from the movie I had saved on my phone and he pointed us to Room 208.  Though he said he couldn’t be 100% sure it was the space where filming had occurred, as you can see below, I am pretty certain he was right on the money.


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Today, Room 208 serves as the center’s Print Room.

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The hallway located just outside of Room 208 also made an appearance in Scream.


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Despite the fact that the walls have since been painted and the lockers that were brought in for the shoot are no longer in place, the hallway is still very recognizable from the movie.


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The stairwell where Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and Sidney had an argument (“Stupid!”) is located at the western end of that same hallway.


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I could not have been more excited to see this particular spot.


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Amazingly, it looks exactly the same today as it did onscreen in Scream.


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What might be my favorite scene from the entire movie took place on the community center’s first level, on the staircase just inside the main entrance.  It is there that Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) tells Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), “I’m 25.  I was 24 for a whole year!”  Their entire exchange during that scene is adorable, especially considering that Courteney and David later fell in love in real life and got married.  It hurts my heart a little now each time I watch it thinking about the fact that they are no longer together.


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The Sonoma Community Center’s use in Scream came about rather circuitously.  In the Spring of 1996, Wes Craven and his production team began looking for places to shoot the then titled Scary Movie.  They fairly quickly decided on Wine Country in Northern California, mainly due to the fact that they liked the look of Santa Rosa High School (pictured below – photo via Wikipedia).  Not only did it have the aesthetic the group wanted, but the school was film friendly, having appeared in 1986’s Peggy Sue Got Married.  The principal and other administrators okayed the plan to shoot on the premises and Wes and his team went into pre-production mode for the next few weeks.  Shortly before filming was to take place, though, the school board requested to see the script and apparently didn’t like what they read.  According to the 2011 documentary Scream: The Inside Story, board members felt the story glorified violence against children, which they were wary about, especially in light of the fact that the trial of Richard Allen Davis for the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas was taking place in the area at the time.  A town hall meeting was held in which local citizens gave their various opinions on the filming and the school board ultimately decided that Scream could not shoot at Santa Rosa High.


In Scream: The Inside Story, Wes Craven explained that he understood board member’s trepidation given the violent crime that had rocked the city a few years prior.  It was their implementation that angered all those involved.  At the last minute, scenes had to be rewritten, shooting schedules altered, and sets built to make up for the location loss, all of which cost precious time and money.  You can read some articles on the debacle here and here.  When the movie wrapped, Wes still wasn’t over the whole thing apparently and decided to put a special note in the “Thanks” section of Scream’s closing credits.  It read, “No thanks whatsoever to the Santa Rosa City School District Governing Board.”  The situation wasn’t a total loss, though.  In fact, I think things worked out for the better.


During the SRHS brouhaha, the Sonoma Community Center’s then director heard about the situation and reached out to the production team to offer up the site as an alternative locale.

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The center, which was originally built in 1915, served as Sonoma Grammar School until 1948 and definitely bears the look of a small town learning institution, which is exactly what Wes was going for.

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The production team immediately jumped on board with the idea and, as a result, the Sonoma Community Center is now one of the most famous horror movie locations of all time.  To me, the Santa Rosa High School debacle was a blessing in disguise as the community center is a much more charming and quaint location that fit in with Scream’s aesthetic better than SRHS ever could.  It’s funny how things always seem to have a way of working out.

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The change did require a few sets to be built, though, one of which was Principal Arthur Himbry’s (Henry Winkler) office and anteroom.



You can see an image of the set, which was featured in Scream: The Inside Story, below.


I am 99.9% certain that the Woodsboro High School bathroom was also a set as it definitely cannot be found at the Sonoma Community Center.  I took a peek at both of the site’s restrooms during our visit and neither even remotely resembles the Scream bathroom.  The upstairs restroom is a single stall space and, while the downstairs bathroom does have multiple stalls, it is nowhere near as large as the space that appeared onscreen.  I also showed screen captures of the bathroom to our tour guide and he said that he does not believe there was ever a restroom like that on the community center premises.  After I returned home, I contacted a crew member who confirmed that the bathroom was a set, as well.  I still say I’m only 99.9% certain, though, as crew members have been known to misremember things like this.



Though the movie’s 2011 sequel Scream 4 took place once again in Woodsboro, filming did not return to Northern California.  The flick was instead lensed in Michigan, with Woodworth Middle School at 4951 Ternes Street in Dearborn, standing in for Woodsboro High.  While much larger in scale, the building does bear a striking resemblance to the Sonoma Community Center.

Woodsboro High School Scream

You can watch Scream: The Inside Story by clicking below.  And you can read a great article about the documentary here.  As it turns out, the special was produced by screenwriter Daniel Farrands, who not only went to Santa Rosa High School, but also penned Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers the year before Scream was filmed.  Apparently, an area paper ran a local-boy-makes-good story on Farrands at the time celebrating his horror movie career.  Why locals weren’t as accommodating to Wes just a short time later remains to be seen.

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 Sonoma Community Center, aka Woodsboro High School from Scream, is located at 276 East Napa Street in Sonoma.  You can visit the property’s official website here.



Leave a comment »

  1. Malinda Cook says:

    Love this!

  2. Ashley L. says:

    Oh my heart! I am so thrilled that it’s finally time for your latest Scream posts! Roadtrip from heaven – next time I’m coming with you 😉 Wonderfully thorough post and really loving the detailed photos of the classroom and stairwell. PS – I too feel a little heartbroken whenever I watch Gale & Dewey’s meeting scene!

  3. Owen says:

    I never knew about the Santa Rosa background. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I think I have a new all-time favorite end-credits listing. I love, love, love Wes Craven’s sarcastic notation. I know I would have done likewise. All these years later, the members of the Santa Rosa school board must still be kicking themselves for making the decision they did. I bet you they’re so mad they could, well, you know.

  4. Rob says:

    Wow! You’re the best!

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