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A Quick History of Film in Detroit


As mentioned in most of the advertisements for Wayne State University, our campus is Detroit. I’ve been a local metro-Detroit resident for my entire life, so like many other locals I understand the vibrant and deep history of the city. Michigan itself has an interesting past with the film industry, too.

About a decade ago, Michigan passed into law subsidies to support film production for economic stimulation. In fact, the subsidies offered were the best in the country at the time and 115 million dollars were awarded in 2010 alone.

This brought many big name films to Michigan, including:

Batman v. Superman

Batman v. Superman is the film on this list that most of us will remember because it was huge. In fact, it was the 8th most expensive film ever made. Gotham was filmed in different areas around Detroit and it was way cool to spot different Detroit architecture throughout the film.

Oz the Great and Powerful

Oz was another big box office film (grossing 493.3 million) that was filmed in Pontiac at the Raleigh Michigan Studio, which is also where Batman v. Superman was filmed.. The film was a fantasy based on the Wizard of Oz series, but where the lead character isn’t in a blue plaid dress, but a shady circus musician. The studio would later default on their bonds and permanently close after Michigan’s film incentives were stopped.

Whip It

Directed by and starring Drew Barrymore, Whip It was filmed in many Detroit and Ann Arbor locations. Some top spots include Lafayette’s Coney Island and

Ferndale High School. The film received positive critical rating with an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

8 Mile

One can’t get through a Detroit movie list without talking about 8 Mile, starring Eminem by mirroring the story of him growing up Detroit. The inspirational film shows the reality of bad areas and sheds light on what life can be like. The A&L Mobile Home Park in Warren is where the trailer park scenes were shot and there is even a real Shelter (where the rap battle is held) downtown below the Saint Andrew’s Hall.

Putting Detroit on the Map

  • The sitcom, Home Improvement, was set in Royal Oak

  • It Follows was a horror film that even shot at the Northville Psychiatric Hospital

  • Gran Torino is Clint Eastwood’s drama that is film and set in Detroit

  • Dearborn’s Woodworth Middle School was shot as Scream 4’s high school

Editor's Note: If you're interested in checking out more films that were either set or shot in the Metro Detroit area, check out our Detroit Weekend Watchlist from last year!

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