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83 Park Street, Suite 5

Providence, RI 02903 USA
tel: 401/861-4445
401/490-6735 (f)


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PO Box 162

Newport, RI 02840 USA

Street Address:

36 Rhode Island Avenue,

Newport, RI 02840 USA



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The History of Film in Rhode Island



It seems that over the last three decades, Rhode Island seems to have been rediscovered by Hollywood and the international cinema community. Before the success of "Titanic," Filmmaker James Cameron shot his spy-thriller "True Lies" in Newport. Steven Spielberg completed his acclaimed "Amistad" in locations throughout Rhode Island and southern New England. And homegrown auteurs and technicians - the Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby), Michael Corrente, and Tom Ohanian - have created critical and financial hits based on material either inspired by or shot in the state. Television programs like "Providence," "The Brotherhod," and "Family Guy" either have a Rhode Island focus, or were shot in the Ocean State.


Local legend has it that the "Superman" television series used the Industrial Bank Building for its famous opening sequences. And though the legend is a just a myth, the City of Providence shares a rich history in regard to filmmaking. In fact, Rhode Island's relationship with the film industry goes back to the early days of the silents, when the state's homegrown product was distributed nationwide.


In December of 1914, the Eastern Film Corporation was founded by Frederick Peck of Barrington. The corporation's headquarters, located at 1-17 McKinley Street in the Old Park Brewery buildings bordering Roger Williams Park and Elmwood Avenue, was the place where some of our nation's first silent pictures were filmed. Shooting began in the spring of 1915 and continued through late fall with a company of over 80 actors, directors and technicians. When winter approached, the company moved to Florida, and for financial reasons, never returned.


But during that year at least 13 films were made. Comedies, westerns, series, features, documentaries and war films were produced there, with titles such as "The Man Who Looks Like Me," "The Labor Day Parade" (newsreel footage of the 1915 event in Providence) "Nora Declares War," and "A Christmas Story."


Filming continued at those studios through 1919 by companies leasing Eastern's space. The Amber Star Film Corporation, Harry Myers and Rosemary Theby, who later worked for Universal Studios in New York, the Burns Brothers, the General Film Company, and a company with no known name, which produced "The Wives Union," a comedy.


The Coronet Film Corporation was also Providence based, making films between 1920 and 1924 in a studio located on the Broad Street side of Roger Williams Park (opposite Eastern). The films, mostly documentaries, bore the name "Educational." They included "Why Providence," a two-reel film geared toward economic development; "Unhooking the Hookworm," a documentary; "East Side West Side All Around Town" made for the R.I. Public Transit Authority and others.


Film studios and companies existed in other parts of Rhode Island during this period, including the Joseph Bryon Totten's Essanay Branch in Westerly, the Lubin Film Mfg. Company in Newport, Solax in Newport, M&M Picture Company in Westerly, Triangle in Watch Hill, What Cheer Film Company in Providence, Western Film Company in Warren, the Commonwealth Photoplay Corporation (a Boston-based company that filmed in Providence), the Fox Film Corporation that filmed a 15-part serial in Newport, and others.


The movies continued to flirt with Rhode Island. The 1956 Bing Crosby-Grace Kelly-Frank Sinatra musical "High Society" featured an opening-shot flyover of Newport’s oceanfront mansions as well as later rear projection work for Kelly and Sinatra as they “drove” along the shore. The fact that "High Society" was filmed almost entirely at the MGM Studios in Culver City, Calif., didn’t matter to the many Rhode Islanders who still insist that the film was made in Newport.


Providence has been the location for the shooting of numerous television commercials, and provided the setting for a 1980s situation comedy called "Doctor Doctor," which was set on Providence's East Side. The opening sequence for the show was shot on Benefit Street. Providence and Rhode Island have been the site of a number of major films. Michael Corrente's "Federal Hill" was shot in the City as were films by the Farrelly brothers such as "Dumb and Dumber" and "Something About Mary." Other films and television productions (using primarily Newport sites), include "American Buffalo," shot recently in Pawtucket; "Dumb and Dumber" (1994), "True Lies" (1994), "Killer" (1994), "Wind" (1992), "Reversal of Fortune" (1990), "A Matter of Degrees" (1988 in Providence), "Mr. North" (1987), "The Bostonians," (1984), "Complex World" (1988 in Providence), "The Betsy" (1978), "The Great Gatsby" (1974), "High Society" (1956), "Crash Dive" (1943) and the 15-part "Patria" (1913).


Contemporary television projects shot in Rhode Island include the BBC production, "Buccaneers" (1994), "America's Castles" (1993), "The Kennedys and Fitzgeralds" (1988), the WGBH production of "The Scarlet Letter" (1978), PBS's "The Adams Chronicles" (1976), French television's "USA 2000" (1975), ABC's "The Man Without a Country" (1972); the daytime serial, "Dark Shadows" (1966-1971), and the popular NBC series, "Providence," which in its brief run put the city on the national radar.


Additionally, here are some of the more recent film projects:



— Amistad, Newport, Providence

— Meet Joe Black, Warwick

— Outside Providence, Providence, South Kingstown

— Strangers in Transit, Pawtucket



— There’s Something About Mary, Providence



— Me, Myself & Irene, Jamestown, South County

— Providence (TV), Providence



— The Last Shot, Providence, Johnston



— Hard Luck, Providence



— Underdog, Providence

— The Education of Charlie Banks, Pawtucket

— Normal Adolescent Behavior, Pawtucket

— Evening, Newport, Tiverton

— Dan in Real Life, Jamestown, Westerly

— Brotherhood (TV) Providence, East Providence

— Waterfront (TV), Providence, Cumberland



— 27 Dresses, Providence, Newport, Pawtucket, Charlestown, Cumberland

— Tanner Hall — Burrillville, Providence, Newport, Pawtucket, Lincoln

— Brotherhood (TV), Providence, East Providence



— Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, directed by Lasse Halstrom, Woonsocket, Bristol, South Kingstown

— The Clique, North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Warwick

— Brotherhood (TV), Providence, East Providence





— Body of Evidence (TV) Providence, Newport, statewide



— Moonrise Kingdom, directed by Wes Anderson, Middletown, Jamestown, Tiverton



— Funeral Kings, directed by the McManus Brothers, East Greenwich

— Breakfast With Curtis, directed by Laura Colella, Providence