Los Angeles: City Of Perpetual Cinematic Destruction From Earthquake to The Day After Tomorrow, why have filmmakers always loved demolishing L.A.? We offer a list of movies in which the city is attacked by aliens or killer robots, plagued by zombies and (most frequently) crushed by natural disasters.
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Los Angeles: City Of Perpetual Cinematic Destruction

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Los Angeles: City Of Perpetual Cinematic Destruction

Los Angeles: City Of Perpetual Cinematic Destruction

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

This summer we're on location. It's our series about movies and the places they're set. Today we're going to look at films set here in the movie making capital of the world. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports on Los Angeles and the movies that love to destroy it.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Los Angeles doesn't stand a chance on the big screen.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Day After Tomorrow")

Mr. TIM BAGLEY (Actor): (as Tommy Levinson) If you look over there behind me, that's a tornado, a twister in Los Angeles.

DEL BARCO: In the movies, the City of Angels gets obliterated by titanic tornadoes, epic earthquakes and a colossal volcano that bubbles up from below the La Brea tar pits.�

(Soundbite of movie)

Unidentified Man #1 (Actor): (as character) Code 3, all units downtown now.

DEL BARCO: If L.A.'s not getting hammered by natural disasters, it's being ravaged by wayward, giant flying creatures, like in the 2007 movie "Dragon Wars."

(Soundbite of movie, "Dragon Wars")

Unidentified Man #2 (Actor): (as character) What in God's name?

(Soundbite of growling)

DEL BARCO: Or it's getting zapped by merciless Martians.

(Soundbite of movie trailer for "The War of the Worlds")�

Unidentified Man #3: Menacing all mankind and every creature on Earth comes "The War of the Worlds."

(Soundbite of music)

DEL BARCO: By far, L.A.'s biggest cinematic target is the famous nine-letter landmark perched in the Hollywood Hills.�

(Soundbite of movie)

Unidentified Man #4 (Actor): (as character) The Hollywood sign is gone. It's just shredded.

DEL BARCO: The sign gets demolished in "The Day After Tomorrow," and it's shot down by John Belushi, himself a force of nature, in the movie "1941."

(Soundbite of movie, "1941")

Mr. JOHN BELUSHI (Actor): (as Captain Wild Bill Kelso): My name's Wild Bill Kelso, and don't you forget it.

(Soundbite of gunfire)

DEL BARCO: Miraculously, the Hollywood sign is back for more mayhem in just about every disaster movie set in Los Angeles. Same goes for the Capitol Records Building, which was designed to resemble a stack of 45 r.p.m. records. The architectural wonder crumbles, along with the rest of the city, while Charlton Heston ditches Ava Gardner to rescue Genevieve Bujold in the 1974 movie "Earthquake."

(Soundbite of movie, "Earthquake")

(Soundbite of screaming)

While doing my in-depth investigative reporting for this story, I asked the mayor, police chief and several city council members if they were at all concerned that a Hollywood-scale calamity could annihilate the city. They all told me,�nah, that's only in the movies. But just to be sure, I visited L.A. County's Office of Emergency Management.

Mr. KEN KONDO (Los Angeles County Office of Emergency Management): Preparedness is a key to survival.

DEL BARCO: Ken Kondo is a spokesman for the emergency center, whose high-tech situation room was featured in the 1997 movie "Volcano."

So what are your plans in case L.A. gets hit by an earthquake?

Mr. KONDO: People are instructed to drop, cover and hold on.

DEL BARCO: How prepared are you for tornadoes?

Mr. KONDO: About a year ago, we had a funnel cloud touch down in Compton.

DEL BARCO: How about zombies and aliens?�

Mr. KONDO: Zombies and aliens is interesting. Same principles apply. Talking about having an emergency kit - food, water, medication, having a jacket, long sleeves. It could happen at any time.

DEL BARCO: Seriously? Is L.A. really prepping for flesh-eating zombies or demented space aliens? At the emergency center, I tried to clarify with Sheriff Sergeant Brian Muller.

There's always aliens coming to Los Angeles, right?

Sheriff BRIAN MULLER (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department): You mean -okay.

DEL BARCO: In the movies.

Sheriff MULLER: Oh, the movie aliens. Okay. Movie aliens. I wasn't sure if you were talking about immigration aliens coming to L.A. We have a lot of those too.�

Mr. STEPHEN HAWKING (Physicist): If extraterrestrials visit us, the outcome might be similar to when Columbus landed in America. In other words, it didn't turn out too well for the Native Americans.

DEL BARCO: Space aliens are always visiting L.A. in the movies, if only to teach us that we really should take better care of our Earth, that we mustn't anger genetically engineered replicants, cyborgs and transformers, and that we really should be nice to intergalactic tourists, even if they don't always like us.�

(Soundbite of movie trailer)

Unidentified Man #5: In a city where anything can happen, it will.

DEL BARCO: I'm standing at the beach in Santa Monica while I still can. On August 11, it's supposed to be overrun by hostile space creatures, according to the movie "Battle: Los Angeles." That's not to be confused with the movie "Battle of Los Angeles."

(Soundbite of screaming)

DEL BARCO: I'm going to ride the Ferris wheel and the Sea Dragon thrill ride here on the pier before all of us Earthlings have to run for our lives.

(Soundbite of screaming)

DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

Unidentified Man #6: Please stay calm.

(Soundbite of music)

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