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History of Film & Cinema in San Diego

Featuring Tom Cruise, Kate Hudson and Will Ferrell

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

Courtesy Photo
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  • Almost Famous
  • Top Gun
  • Lost World: Jurassic Park
  • Bring It On
  • Traffic
  • K-9
  • Some Like It Hot
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Hollywood is much bigger than the shadow cast by its iconic sign atop the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking Los Angeles. Truth be told, Hollywood stretches all the way to San Diego County, where filmmakers have been shooting their productions, at least in part, long before the arrival of the “talkies.” Some of those movies have become iconic, like the Billy Wilder comedy “Some Like It Hot,” for which the historic Hotel del Coronado stood in for a Miami Beach resort. Others, like Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic,” utilized locations from Balboa Park to La Jolla, and earned four Academy Awards. Another, “Top Gun,” with Tom Cruise, made movie stars out of NAS Miramar and downtown’s Kansas City Barbecue.

Why would studios venture south to San Diego for location shooting when they have Hollywood in their own back yards?

“There are a couple of reasons,” said Cathy Anderson, who for 26 years served the San Diego Film Commission, an agency that promotes and facilitates film production locally. “One is the diversity of looks and locations, from palm trees and the ocean to mountains and the desert. It’s all within the San Diego County area. But mostly it’s a budget issue … offering incentives that might save the filmmaker time and money.”

Another reason may be San Diegans themselves, and their love of the movies.

“We have a community of people who are keenly interested in cinema and are aware of cinema,” said Andy Friedenberg, director of the Cinema Society of San Diego. “It’s an important market for the motion picture industry. This city does very well in terms of an outpouring going to the movies.” While San Diego will never rival its glittery neighbor to the north in star power, it has its shining lights: “Some Like It Hot.” “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.” “Almost Famous.” Annette Bening. Gregory Peck. Cameron Crowe. Comic-Con. 

“San Diego has film traditions,” said Friedenberg, whose own organization is about to celebrate its 30-year anniversary. “We have many people who have gone into the industry from this community. We have had a proliferation of film festivals and alternative film programming. It’s a community rich in cinema love and tradition, whether it be famous people who have come from this area or the actual locations that have been used in films over the years.”

Page 1: San Diego film history overview
Page 2: Five memorable movies shot at least in part in San Diego
Page 3: Famous films with San Diego connections
Page 4: Stars & filmmakers with San Diego ties
Page 5: San Diego Movie Trivia