Where was Phenomenon filmed?
American, House, Rustic, Automotive, Buildings/Offices, Police/Jails, Schools/Colleges
Office Building Style, Rustic
What if an average Joe suddenly developed extraordinary intelligence and telekinetic powers? That’s the basic premise behind Phenomenon, the 1996 romantic drama starring Hollywood A-lister John Travolta.
Phenomenon tells the story of everyman George Malley (Travolta), a mechanic from a small town in northern California. George’s life is simple, but it makes him happy. He enjoys his work, he has two close friends in the form of Nate (Forest Whitaker) and Doc Brunder (Robert Duvall), and he harbors a not-so-secret crush on local single mother Lace (Kyra Sedgwick).
But George’s comfortable life is about to be turned upside-down. After celebrating his 37th birthday with friends, George leaves the bar to begin walking home. And that’s when, out of nowhere, he sees eerie lights in the sky — but this ain’t no ordinary shooting star. The lights cause a blinding flash and some sort of loud bang, knocking George to the ground unconscious.
When he wakes up, he races back into the bar to see if anyone else saw the lights or heard the noise. Bemused and confused, they have no idea what he’s talking about.
But it soon becomes clear that George has woken up a very different man. He’s now incredibly intelligent, can master complex problems and concepts easily, and has an insatiable appetite for knowledge. He forms genius ideas no one has ever thought of before, and soon even develops telekinetic abilities.
George is determined to use his powers for good and help his struggling small town. He develops a super-strong fertilizer, helps rescue people in need, and he even predicts an earthquake before it occurs.
But while George’s efforts and unique abilities bring him closer to Lace, they freak out the townsfolk, who become wary of his powers. And they’re not the only ones to take notice of George’s phenomenal powers. The FBI is desperate to learn more about George’s code-breaking talents and harness his mental abilities for their own use.
Can George use his intelligence to change the world for the better, or will darker forces ensure that his powers are used for evil instead?
Want to check out the filming location of Phenomenon in person? You’ll need to head to the city of Auburn in northern California, which is located a little over 30 miles northeast of Sacramento.
A famous gold rush town, Auburn is a California Historical Landmark. The gorgeous surroundings of historic Old Town Auburn were used as the setting for Phenomenon, and you’ll find a handful of landmarks from the movie in and around this area.
Take the bar where George celebrates his birthday, for example, which was at the time known as the Shanghai. These days it’s known as the Auburn Alehouse and is found right in the heart of downtown Auburn.
Doc Brunder’s office, which you may remember for Phenomenon’s “mooning” scene, is found on Sacramento Street, while the gas station that features in the film was actually a set constructed in front of Auburn’s post office. Scenes were also filmed at Machado Orchards, just a few miles drive northeast of the city.
If you want to visit the filming location of Phenomenon, we’ve gathered together the details of where some of the movie’s best scenes were filmed (spoiler alert!). Keep reading for info on how to find these production locations for yourself.
Phenomenon was released on July 3, 1996, the very same date as the Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum film Independence Day.
Mooning scene in Phenomenon
107 Sacramento Street
As Phenomenon begins, we’re introduced to what an average day in the life of George Malley looks like. He works hard, he’s a nice guy, and his advances towards Lace are politely but firmly rebuffed.
But today is also George’s birthday, and his friends have a special surprise in store for him. George has been instructed to look up to the upstairs window at Doc’s office across the street at 10 am, but he doesn’t know why. And as the appointed time arrived while he’s in conversation with Lace, George looks up to the window to see a “Happy birthday George” message spelled out on the blinds.
“Hey, that’s nice,” George smiles, just before the blinds are yanked up and he’s treated to the sight of Doc mooning him — resulting in much mirth from his friends and a bemused smirk from Lace.
The building used as Doc’s office was at the time the Tsuda grocery store, and today it’s a Sierra Moon Goldsmiths store. You can find it at 107 Sacramento Street.
Bar scene in Phenomenon
289 Washington Street
It all starts out as just another birthday for George, but that all changes when he starts walking home from the bar after one too many drinks. After the supernatural experience induced by the strange bright lights, George races back to the bar to see whether anyone else experienced the same phenomenon.
“Anybody see that? There was th- that light?” George stammers, but his friends are simply bemused. They dismiss his concerns as the ramblings of someone who’s a little too intoxicated, and they’re quick to get back to their evening.
But we get our first clue that something’s not right when George, a mediocre chess player at best, wins his game against Doc with one stunning move. “Isn’t that checkmate?” George asks a surprised Doc, and George’s friends can barely believe he’s actually won the match. Of course, this is only going to be the first of many times George amazes them with his talents.
This Phenomenon filming location was a bar known as the Shanghai, which is no longer operating. Today you’ll find the Auburn Alehouse in the same location. If you want to stop in for a brew, it’s at 289 Washington Street in the heart of Auburn.
Orchard scene in Phenomenon
100 Apple Lane
George’s abilities have already wowed his friends, and now they’re going to impress the whole community — and make a positive difference in the world. It all starts when Doc is summoned to a fruit orchard where an elderly worker has fallen ill, probably from food poisoning. The man only speaks Portuguese, so Doc calls on George to help him translate what the man is saying.
George grabs a Portuguese-to-English dictionary and manages to master the foreign language within 20 minutes. He speaks to the sick man, who reveals that a young boy, Alberto, also ate the same food as the old man and has gone missing in the orchard. A search party starts frantically roaming through the rows of fruit trees in an effort to find the boy, but George sets off on his own.
Using his unique talents, he realizes something astonishing: “He’s not in the orchard,” says George, almost in a trancelike state. Then, to the shock of onlookers, he uses his telekinetic powers to uncover a ladder that leads to the boy’s hiding space.
The orchard scenes were filmed at Machado Orchards, a little over five minutes’ drive northeast of Auburn. You can find this Phenomenon filming location at 100 Apple Lane, just off Bowman Road.
While it had mixed reviews from critics, there’s still a whole lot to love about Phenomenon. The story of an ordinary guy with extraordinary powers is something we can all relate to, and it’s fascinating watching George’s rapid transformation from humble mechanic to mind-boggling super-genius take place. Travolta’s performance is particularly impressive, while the ensemble cast all play their roles with aplomb.
The town of Auburn is also the perfect backdrop for Phenomenon’s small-town setting, and it ensures that a handful of iconic Phenomenon locations are easily accessible. So if you’re a fan of the film, a Travolta fan, or just love all things cinema, it’s well worth a detour to Auburn to check some of these locations out for yourself.