I recently became aware of the 1988 movie “Miracle Mile.” It’s about a nuclear attack on the U.S. with our own Miracle Mile on Wilshire as ground zero. I don’t know what Hollywood has against this neighborhood. First it was bombed in this movie, then it was overcome by lava in the awful “Volcano.” As a film, “Miracle Mile” is just a little bit better than “Volcano,” but just like in “Volcano,” it was cool to see the area on film. Since this movie was filmed in 1988, it was also interesting to see how the neighborhood has changed. I figured out how to take screen-grabs of the movie, then went to the same spots and took photos of what they look like now.
The film begins (and ends) at the La Brea Tar Pits. There was some sort of observation deck next to the pit at the time. That’s the movie’s star, Anthony Edwards standing on the platform, waiting for his heroine Mare Winningham to join him. And 20 years later the poor mammoth still can’t fight his way out of the tar pit.
Edwards’s character is a trombone player, and in this scene he is in Pan Pacific Park playing a concert to raise funds to renovate Pan Pacific Auditorium. That’s the original building in the background. Sadly, the landmark burned down on May 24, 1989. A smaller replica was built in its place. The park also had a little performance area built into a hill, which is also gone. Note how empty the park looks where the Holocaust Museum now stands.
The film featured the “Fairfax Trolley,” which apparently ran all over the area. I assume this was a real thing and not made-up for the movie. Interestingly, the trolley was allowed in the park back then, and now you can’t even ride a bike on its paths!
Park La Brea was an unlikely co-star of the movie. Except for adding some color to the towers, the complex looks the same now as it did then. I couldn’t get a crane to take a current shot!
There’s the trolley again, this time passing by LACMA. Work was still being done on the sculpture garden which opened in 1988. And it looks like they were doing some resurfacing work on one of the original museum buildings.
Johnie’s played a prominent role in the film. It looked much like it does today.
There was a cool neon sign outside of Johnie’s in the movie. I suspect it was put there just for the movie and didn’t exist in real life. This homeless man was nowhere to be found in 2011, but don’t dismay — there are always a few others hanging around on the corner of Fairfax and Wilshire.
I would love to get a current photo of the cool interior of Johnie’s, but that is impossible because it closed its doors to diners in 2000. It is currently available for filming.
The corner of Fairfax and Wilshire, facing east. The May Co. building was still a department store rather than part of LACMA. The Variety building towered over the avenue as it does now, only it was a bank building back then. The white building across the street was another department store then. In 1994 it became the Peterson Automotive Museum, but not before turning the facade from white to black.
A street used to go through on the other side of the May Co. building. There were stores where the Broad Contemporary Art Museum building now stands.
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