A fiery shot from "The Rock": Expect another cable
car crash in "The Hulk," in theaters this summer.
"Metro" also featured a similar scene.
There hasn't been a catastrophic earthquake since 1989, volatile baseballer Jose Canseco moved to Miami and fajita-related violence is down 100 percent this year.
Taking everything into account, the Bay Area is a tranquil place to live.
But in the movies, locals seem to spend most of their time running and screaming in panic, as San Francisco attracts more than its share of giant monsters, car chases, hostage-taking bad guys and natural disasters.
"The Core," currently in theaters, gives San Francisco the ant-under-a-microscope treatment from a giant beam of solar energy with the Golden Gate Bridge collapsing into the bay. This summer, "The Hulk" will stomp over Telegraph Hill and other Bay Area locales.
More than anything else, San Francisco's incomparable landmarks and stellar views make it a prime target for Hollywood destruction.
"It's not very exciting to blow up downtown Indianapolis because it looks like lots of other downtowns," said Eric Blyler, a Bay Area location scout. "San Francisco is a little unique that way. It's kind of special."
Some action movies make more than half of their money overseas, where San Francisco's bridges, cable cars and hilly streets are instantly recognized.
"If it's not at the top, it's definitely one of the most recognized cities worldwide," said location scout Scott Trimble. "It's also popular to foreign audiences because San Francisco represents a great port city that people have immigrated through."
Although San Francisco probably has hosted more movie car chases and disaster scenes per capita than any other city in the world, the majority of the filming is not rooted in violence.
Trimble's www.norcalmovies.com Web site, which keeps track of local productions, shows that for every movie using the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop for destruction, there are five that use it as a backdrop for a couple falling in love.
"There are a number of movies that are boy meets girl, and they walk around San Francisco and hold hands and drink wine and have a lovely romance," said Ned Kopp, a veteran location scout who has worked in the Bay Area for more than three decades. "There's no car chase in the film at all."
Action films may be in the minority, but they are often the most memorable films. And they aren't necessarily bad for the city.
While heavy-on-the-mayhem movies such as "The Rock" and "The Hulk" have traditionally caused frustration for some residents who live near the filming sites, they generally are a boon for hotels, restaurants and the rest of the local economy.
Trimble said action films such as this year's "The Matrix" sequels (shot mostly in the East Bay) have big budgets, large crews and long shooting schedules which can translate to more spending in the Bay Area.
"That's the biggest movie I've ever seen," Trimble said. "They spent tons of money everywhere, all over the Bay Area. It's great because they can afford it, and they're going to make a ton of money when the movie is released in a couple of months."
Other destruction-focused movies have little impact on the places they shoot. The makers of "The Core" have been using the Golden Gate Bridge scene as a centerpiece for advertising campaigns, but in reality it's a short scene in the movie and there was almost no filming in the Bay Area.
Blyler, who was a location manager on the film, said a small crew took a few simple "plate shots" of the bridge, which were digitally modified. During the Bay Area filming, which took only two days, Blyler said traffic on the bridge was never halted.
The Golden Gate Bridge seems to be Hollywood's favorite target over the years, having been melted, threatened by a giant wave, consumed by a giant octopus and nearly covered in bird excrement.
According to movie legend, Alfred Hitchcock planned to end "The Birds" with a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge blanketed with enraged fowl. That and another big scene were reportedly never filmed because of budget considerations.
Cable cars are the second landmark on the hit list. At least three films in the past decade "The Rock," "Metro" and "The Hulk" have staged a cable car crash.
In most cases, those scenes are shot a block or two away from the actual tracks so commuter service isn't disrupted. "The Hulk" reportedly topples a cable car at Vallejo and Sansome streets, which in reality is blocks away from the rail. Observant moviegoers will notice that several other scenes have been shot from the same intersection.
"Everybody always wants to go back to the same place," Blyler said. "The place where we shot 'The Hulk' is also where they shot 'Enough' with Jennifer Lopez and where they also shot parts of 'The Sweetest Thing.' "
Kopp adds: "It's just like when you go to Disneyland. There's a number of places where they suggest you take the photo because you'll see the castle better or see the mountain better."
Except that at Disneyland, the castle isn't getting blown up, eaten by an atomic octopus or covered in a million gallons of water.
"I'm not sure (San Francisco) is just good for world destruction," Kopp said. "That just happens to be one of the things they film here."
Movies that ate San Francisco
Clearly it's not enough to steal our water and consistently beat our basketball team by double digits. Hollywood also has a rich history of filming Bay Area residents getting stomped on, melted, blown up and invaded.
In the past five decades in movies, the Golden Gate Bridge has been knocked into the sea, cable cars have been totaled and San Francisco's City Hall has been doused in gasoline and consumed in flames.
Below are some of the most graphic disasters or near-disasters filmed in the Bay Area:
THE CORE (2003)
The scenario: Earth's core stops spinning, wreaking havoc with the planet's magnetic field. Scientists climb into a spaceship that looks alarmingly like a giant vibrating sex toy and save most of Earth but not San Francisco, which is burnt by solar rays.
Landmarks destroyed: The Golden Gate Bridge is melted and collapses into the bay.
Gratuitous histrionic quote: "It's hard to believe that half of San Francisco is in ruins today!" From a television report.
On the bright side: Although it's difficult to tell in the movie, motorists with FasTrak probably escaped the bridge unharmed.
THE ROCK (1996)
The scenario: Crazy general takes hostages on Alcatraz and aims rockets at downtown San Francisco and 3Com Park. Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery try to stop him, but not before they engage in a 70-mile-per-hour car chase through North Beach that ends with a totaled cable car, wrecked police vehicles and several parking meters yanked from their foundations.
Landmarks destroyed: A cable car is blown up, along with half of Alcatraz.
Gratuitous histrionic quote: "Mr. Director, you have a problem. A battery of VX gas rockets is presently deployed to deliver a highly lethal strike on the San Francisco Bay Area." Ed Harris as Brig. Gen. Francis X. Hummel.
On the bright side: This newspaper's popular ChronicleWatch feature would presumably expedite the repairs on the parking meters.
THE ABYSS SPECIAL EDITION (1989)
The scenario: Extraterrestrials who live underwater threaten all of the earth's coasts with a giant tidal wave. The tsunami looms high over the Golden Gate Bridge, but the kindly aliens call it off at the last minute.
Landmarks destroyed: None.
Gratuitous histrionic quote: "The horizon has already grown dark! People are running! The wave is maybe a thousand feet high already, getting bigger as I watch! Oh my God!" From a television report.
On the bright side: The wave surely resulted in the most bitchin' Mavericks surfing competition ever.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (1986)
The scenario: A spaceship that looks like a giant Duraflame log parks in Earth's orbit, causing a worldwide blackout. In an attempt to search for whales, it sucks water out of the San Francisco Bay. The "Star Trek" guys go back in time and steal two humpbacks from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which without explanation has been relocated to Sausalito.
Landmarks destroyed: None, although the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco-based Starfleet Headquarters are battered by a hurricane.
On the bright side: Spock manages to go where no San Francisco politician has gone before successfully cleaning up Muni. In the most satisfying local movie moment ever, Spock climbs on a San Francisco bus and puts the Vulcan death grip on a teenager playing his music too loud.
A VIEW TO A KILL (1985)
The scenario: In an attempt to gain a monopoly over the world's microchip market, a maniacal businessman played by Christopher Walken plots to fill the San Andreas Fault with explosives and plunge most of the Bay Area into the sea. Along the way, he douses City Hall with gasoline, sets it on fire and gets in a fight with James Bond on top of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Landmarks destroyed: City Hall.
Gratuitous histrionic quote: "Nothing can stop it now! The greatest cataclysm in history!" Walken as Max Zorin.
On the bright side: Although it's disturbing that the movie version of City Hall doesn't appear to have a sprinkler system, we clocked the San Francisco Fire Department's response time at less than a minute.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)
The scenario: Interstellar dental floss lands in San Francisco, spawning exotic flowers that clone human bodies and ditch the originals. Donald Sutherland and Jeff Goldblum try to escape the evil. Leonard Nimoy tries to escape typecasting as Mr. Spock.
Landmarks destroyed: San Francisco director Philip Kaufman leaves all of the local landmarks intact. Gratuitous histrionic quote: "Who are you calling? The CIA? The FBI? They're all a part of it!" Goldblum as Jack Bellicec.
On the bright side: Although the alien clones strip the human race of its ability to love and show compassion, the Tenderloin has never looked cleaner or more orderly.
THE TOWERING INFERNO (1974)
The scenario: The movie is basically "Jaws," with bad wiring instead of a shark. Money-hungry executives ignore Paul Newman's pleas that a San Francisco skyscraper's bad electrical system could start a fire. Robert Wagner and Richard Chamberlain die. Fred Astaire and O.J. Simpson escape alive.
Landmarks destroyed: The fictitious 138-story Glass Tower.
Gratuitous histrionic quote: "Call an ambulance for this man! Damn it! Call him an ambulance!" O.J. Simpson as a security guard.
On the bright side: Despite glass, furniture and flaming bodies falling from building, downtown San Francisco traffic appears to be moving briskly.
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)
The scenario: A giant octopus crawls into the bay, attacking the Golden Gate Bridge, crawling over to the Embarcadero and assaulting motorists in the Financial District. The Navy is called in and eventually destroys the monster with a giant torpedo.
Landmarks destroyed: Golden Gate Bridge, Ferry Building, part of Market Street.
On the bright side: Octopus dies in final act, giving trendy Marin County eateries a lifetime supply of sushi.
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle