If you are a fan of cinematic maestro George Lucas, you may have heard of his classic oddball 1973 comedy-drama movie ‘American Graffiti.’ In the course of one night, the movie highlights the adventures and misadventures of a group of rogue teenagers. While infused with a timeless coming-of-age feel, the snippets chronicling the characters also comment on culture, including tropes like cruising.
Furthermore, Lucas explores an emergent rock n roll ambiance, which was a dominant part of the youth subculture in his time. Since its release, the movie has gained cult significance, deemed as historically, culturally, and aesthetically prominent by the US Library of Congress. Set in the suburban city of Modesto, California, the film traverses its nocturnal streets. However, if you are wondering where the movie was filmed, allow us to spill the beans.
American Graffiti Filming Locations
‘American Graffiti’ was filmed entirely in California, especially in and around the Marin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sonoma counties. Principal photography commenced on June 26, 1972, and wrapped up by July 24 of the same year. Let us now take you to the specific locations where the movie was shot.
Marin County, California
A significant chunk of production took place in California’s Marin County, where the cast and crew visited the communities of San Rafael, Larkspur, and Mill Valley. Initially, Lucas thought of filming scenes in Modesto — where the narrative is set, but he later changed his mind since the city had changed quite a lot within a decade. Some significant scenes were taped in San Rafael, especially on avenues such as Main Street and Fourth Street.
In the community of Mill Valley, the cast and crew got hold of Tamalpais High School, a public high school located at 700 Miller Avenue. Some sequences were filmed at Miller Avenue. In addition, several scenes of the school were recorded on the premises of the Redwood High School. The public high school is located at 395 Doherty Drive in Larkspur.
Sonoma County, California
Although San Rafael served as a crucial location in the filming schedule, most significant scenes were perhaps lensed in Petaluma in Sonoma County. Filming in the city went underway on D Street, Petaluma Boulevard North, Washington Street, and Kentucky Street. The State Movie Theater may be fictional, but the scenes were shot at an actual theater.
Mystic Theater, a landmark theatre situated at 23 Petaluma Boulevard North, stands in for the cinema hall. The crash scene towards the end was filmed at 2079 Frates Road. A slice of filming also took place at the iconic Old Opera House, an art deco opera house and event venue located at 149 Kentucky Street in Petaluma.
San Francisco County, California
The cast and crew headed to San Francisco County, where they taped multiple scenes in San Francisco. The coastal city showcases a vibrant nightlife and an eclectic mix of cultures to entice the tourists. The Mel’s Drive-in, an iconic old-fashioned US diner once located at 140 South Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco, got a feature in the movie. However, the restaurant is now demolished, and you may not catch a slice of history even if you hunt down the location. A sequence was also lensed on Mission Street in the city.
Los Angeles County, California
While most scenes for the movie were captured in natural locations, the production team visited a studio in Los Angeles to film some interior scenes. The American Zoetrope Studios (now known as Sunset Las Palmas Studios), a central movie production facility located at 1040 North Las Palmas Avenue in the heart of Los Angeles’ Hollywood district, facilitated the filming crew.
The contemporary studio features 12 fully equipped sound stages to cater to productions of various degrees. Lucas was familiar with the studio since he filmed scenes for his 1971 avant-garde sci-fi film ‘THX 1138’ in the production complex. From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘Jeopardy!,’ the iconic Hollywood studio has been home to a crucial chapter in the history of the cinematic medium.
Other Locations in California
Lucas took his team to several locations in the state, including some lesser-known places. A portion of the filming went underway in Contra Costa County, where the crew filmed scenes in Pinole and Concord. The airport scenes were lensed in the Concord community, possibly at the Concord-Padgett Regional Airport. Moreover, while filming, the KRE-AM Transmitter Site in Berkeley stood in for Wolfman Jack’s radio station.