Local businesses help set the mood in movies

From left, Patrick Nelson, M. Night Shyamalan and Amanda Nelson in Nelson’s Ice Cream Shop in Royersford. Shyamalan was filming a new movie at locations around the borough in February. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Nelson)
Photo courtesy of Amanda Nelson A film crew records a scene inside Nelson’s Ice Cream Shop in Royersford.

Several local establishments have made movies their business.

Local businesses have made their way into films such as “Lovely Bones” and “The Happening” through connections, having the right “look” and sheer luck.

The G Lodge Restaurant in Phoenixville was used as a film site for the 2008 sci-fi thriller “The Happening,” directed by Philadelphia native M. Night Shyamalan.

Dennis Dreibelbis of the G Lodge said one day a guy came in with a book-bag on his shoulder saying “I’m a film scout and I’m interested in your place.” Dreibelbis said he gave the location manager his number, although he didn’t really believe it was real.

“A day later, the caller ID on my phone said ‘The Happening,’” he said.

He said Shyamalan’s business partner lived a few blocks from the restaurant and he thinks that’s how the film company knew about him. He added that it took them five days to shoot the scenes and they had guards posted because there was so much equipment.

“Everything had to be left alone. You couldn’t change a plate on the counter,” Dreibelbis said.

Shyamalan has filmed several movies in nearby areas. Last month, Shyamalan visited Royersford to shoot scenes for a new film. He did some of his shooting at Nelson’s Ice Cream Store on Main Street.

“We were super excited,” said Amanda Nelson of Nelson’s Ice Cream.

Nelson said it all happened quickly after a location manager visited the store one day.

“They were thinking about shooting a scene at the store and wondered if that would be possible,” Nelson said.

She said Shyamalan liked what he saw in the store because he didn’t change anything including the Nelson logos that were displayed. Nelson said they signed release forms for the film to use their names and the store’s name. Nelson was even used as an extra in the film.

“I’m in the background cleaning,” she said.

Nelson said the scene only took a couple of hours to shoot but that it was an exciting experience. She said Shyamalan was very energetic and made the day enjoyable.

“He’s a very down to earth guy,” she said.

Main Street is a popular filming location and has been used for several movies.

“Main Street … was used because it has such a unique look for the area,” said Sharon Pinkenson, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Film Office.

Pinkenson said location managers, also known as scouts, often use the film office to find sites. She said photos are kept on file and can be sent digitally when needed. She said once a scout finds an area of interest, he or she will negotiate terms with the owner of the business or residence. She added that scouts also go on the hunt for locations by just driving around.

Shyamalan also used the Spring-Ford Area School District in Royersford for his new film. Superintendent David Goodin said a location manager contacted him through email with a request to use the 8th grade center.

“We gave permission and they made a $2,000 donation to the school district,” Goodin said.

Goodin said the film company liked that the building looked dated, which is why they chose the center that had an older building.

“It was pretty cool,” he said.

The 2009 film “Mighty Macs,” which is set in the 70s and is about the Immaculata College women’s basketball team, was filmed heavily at The Hill School in Pottstown.

The movie was also filmed at the Prima Motel and Lounge in Phoenixville. Owner Ralph Costello said the production company wanted to use the motel because it was built in the 70s.

“It seemed like the ideal place to shoot the movie,” he said.

Costello said they transformed the lounge into a nightclub and they even put black covering on the windows to make it appear darker. He said it only took one day to shoot and the production took over the motel and bar.

“They were in charge that whole day and night,” he said.

Local areas have been seen on the big screen for years. The popular 1958 movie “The Blob” was filmed in parts of Phoenixville. A major scene of the movie happens in front of the Colonial Theatre.

Mary Foote, executive director of the theatre said Director Irvin “Shorty” Yeaworth had a film studio nearby in Chester Springs, so the location was convenient. Yeaworth was also a choir director at Phoenixville Presbyterian Church and used several of his members in the “running out the theatre” scene, Foote said.

The theatre reenacts the scene during its annual Blobfest.