Let’s Set-Jet! Visit the Places in Rhode Island Where Your Favorite Films and Shows Were Made
June 14, 2023
When the Steve Carrell’s film Dan in Real Life was released in 2007, Rhode Islanders were treated to a delightful shock—the movie actually is filmed on location in Rhode Island. The Ocean State has long served as a stand in for other locales Long Island (The Great Gatsby), Salem, Massachusetts (Hocus Pocus 2), New York City (The Gilded Age), Connecticut (Amistad), Doylestown, Pennsylvania (also The Gilded Age), a fictional island off the coast of New England called New Penzance (Moonrise Kingdom), a generic “small-town New England” (Irrational Man) and many more.
“Set-jetting” one of 2023’s hottest travel trends, is being inspired and influenced to travel to places you’ve seen in movies, television shows and streaming series. According to Expedia’s 2023 travel trends report, two-thirds of global travelers have considered it, and 39-percent have booked trips to destinations they’ve seen on the big or small screen.
Highlighting local film locations in Providence and Newport have been an important part of our food tours from Day 1. In fact, throughout the months of October and November of 2021, our Newport Neighborhood Food Tour walked around the set of Hocus Pocus 2 almost daily, where Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Nijimy were filming. Local filming locations for Hocus Pocus 2 included Washington Square, andTouro Street in Newport, the Cranston Street Armory, LaSalle Academy, Federal Hill and other Rhode Island locations. On our Newpot food tour, we also trace the footsteps of Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone and Parker Posey when they filmed Irrational Man in Newport, and right by the Colony House and Washington Square in Newport where Steven Spielberg set up shop for a few months filming Amistad (and we stop in front of the White Horse Tavern where Spielberg frequented during filming … and Jason Siegel when he was filming The Discovery with Robert Redford).
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s jump into some Rhode Island filming locations from our point of view.
First, as we speak, Good Burger 2 is filming in North Providence, specifically at the old Friendly’s on Mineral Spring Avenue (“at the old” is peak Rhode Island directions), and Steven Feinberg along with the awesome folks at the Rhode Island Film and Television Office have confirmed that filming will also take place in Warwick and East Greenwich throughout the summer.
The movie sequel stars Kenan Thompson, best known as the longest-tenured cast member on Saturday Night Live in the show’s history. Thompson has become a fixture in the Ocean State the past few weeks, popping up at Castle Hill, Washington Square and the local Dunkin Donuts in Newport, at the Newport Police station where he brought said donuts with coffee, the iconic Olneyville New York System in Providence and more. Good Burger 2 is set to be released next year on Paramount+.
This fall, The Gilded Age will return to HBO. The series, starring Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, and Carrie Coon was created and written by Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame), filmed much of its success first season in Newport at mansions including The Breakers, Marble House, The Elms, Rosecliff, Chateau-sur-Mer and Hunter House, as well as at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Eisenhower House, on Ocean Drive at the private home The Ledges (best known to locals as the Cushing estate), School Street, Trinity Church, private Home Indian Spring (325 Ocean Ave.) and on Clarke Street, which we typically walk down on the Newport Neighborhood Food Tour. Scenes for the upcoming season were also filmed at Marble House, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer and Kingscote.
Why has Rhode Island been a popular filming location for various productions? The answer is simple: diverse landscapes , authentic centuries-old architecture, classic New England charm, the people that work to bring films here to make Rhode Island a film-friendly place, and our tax credits, which are 30% of a production’s in-state expenses.
The legendary 1974 film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, while not the first movie filmed in Rhode Island, seems to have unofficially set the tone for productions here in the modern era. Starring Mia Farrow, Robert Redford, Sam Waterston and Bruce Dern, the film grossed over $26 million against a $7 million budget. Sometimes, Newport’s Jane Pickens Theater, which we show on our food tour, shows the movie.
Although no scenes from The Witches of Eastwick, which debuted in 1987 three years after John Updike’s novel by the same name was published, were shot in Rhode Island, the story is very Ocean State-centric. Set in the fictional Rhode Island town of Eastwick in the early 1970s (which legend says is the real-life village of Wickford), the movie stars Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher.
In 1988, Mr. North was filmed in Newport to bring the novel Theophilus North by Thornton Wilder to life. Filmed around town at The Breakers, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, and what is now the Vanderbilt hotel, the filming brought actors Anthony Edwards, Robert Mitchum, Lauren Bacall, Anjelica Huston, and Virginia Madsen to the City by the Sea.
When director Steven Spielberg saw Newport’s Colony House at Washington Square, he knew he could transform it to be the setting for scenes in his movie Amistad. Built between 1739 and 1741, the historic building was very much unchanged for the 1997 American historical drama film based on the events in 1839 aboard the Spanish slave ship La Amistad. Additional scenes were shot in Queen Anne Square and Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Newport’s Point neighborhood. A powerful Oscar-nominated film starring Anthony Hopkins, Matthew McConaughey and Morgan Freeman, the stars, especially a young McConaughey, were seen out in Newport frequently.
When production for the film Dan in Real Life came to Rhode Island in 2006, cast and crew settled in for a while. Much of the film starring Steve Carrell, Juliette Binoche, Dianne Weist, and Dane Cook, was shot on location in Jamestown at a private home named Riven Rock overlooking the “West Passage. The opening scene was filmed at Seven Stars Bakery in Providence, with additional scenes at East Ferry Wharf in Jamestown, Ocean Drive in Newport, the Point Judith Lighthouse, Misquamicut Beach, and Alley Katz Bowling Center in and at Napatree Point in Westerly.
On our Newport Neighborhood Food Tour, we visit multiple eateries along Broadway, including past the Fastnet Pub, where you can stop and enjoy a pint after, much like scenes from Woody Allen’s Irrational Man. The 2015 film also shot at Salve Regina, Washington Square, Spring Street, and in Providence at Lippitt Park, the West Side Diner, the Providence Athenaeum and two iconic, now-closed Capital City restaurants, Loie Fuller’s and Chez Pascal. The movie premiered at the Jane Pickens Theater in August 2014, which was rather meta as the theater also appears in the movie!
Of course, famed screenwriters and directors, the Farrelly brothers, are from Rhode Island, so a ton of their films are riddled with Ocean State scenes, including Dumb and Dumber; Me, Myself and Irene, There’s Something About Mary and Outside Providence.
And in 2011, quirky filmmaker Wes Anderson brought a star studded cast to Rhode Island for his critically-acclaimed hit, Moonrise Kingdom, including Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand. Locations included Trinity Episcopal Church in Newport, Fort Wetherill State Park and other spots throughout Jamestown, West Greenwich, South Kingstown, Tiverton and Watch Hill. Actor Bill Murray is also in Moonrise Kingdom, and he’s become somewhat of a familiar face in Newport, including at Perro Salado, one of Rhode Island Red Food Tour’s longest-running participants on our Newport Neighborhood Food Tour.
Our Downcity Providence Food Tour intersects with many of the filming locations of the 2008 rom-com 27 Dresses starring Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Ed Burns and Judy Greer. Rhode Island film locations included in Providence Club Hell, Westminster Street, Mill’s Tavern and Johnson & Wales University, while Rosecliff and Marble House in Newport hosted wedding scenes.
On our Rhode Island food tours, our experienced guides welcome set-jetters and show all of our participants where a ton of locations where these films were shot and dish on the inside scoop from a local’s perspective.
Make Rhode Island the next destination for your set-jetting getaway!