Westerns, documentaries, horror movies, thrillers . . . Globe, Arizona has appeared in more movies than Morgan Freeman. But Globe isn’t just a popular location for movies on the big screen; it’s also the backdrop for numerous music videos, commercials, YouTube videos, TV shows, photoshoots, and more. And for good reason. Not only does Arizona’s diverse geography and deserts make it a prime location for movies, but Globe’s wealth of historic buildings, such as the train depot and the1910 jail, lend Globe the authenticity moviemakers crave.
Globe first made its Hollywood debut in 1950 with the release of Branded. The town and surrounding areas gained increasing popularity with Hollywood filmmakers throughout the 1970s, and over the next several decades, it was the locale for numerous blockbuster movies such as The Gauntlet (1977) starring Clint Eastwood; Midnight Run (1988) starring Robert De Niro; The Prophesy (1995); Oliver Stone’s U-Turn (1997) starring Sean Penn, Jennifer Lopez, Nick Nolte, and Billy Bob Thornton; as well as parts of the classic Nicholas Cage movie, Raising Arizona (1987). But eventually, movie production in Globe waned, yielding a several decades long gap.
However, over the last ten years, the dedication and hard work of Globe’s leaders has solidified Globe’s place on the map with the film industry. In the last two years alone, over 120 projects have been filmed in Globe, with more projects in the works. Much of the credit for this resurgence goes to Molly Cornwell, the current director for the downtown association, and the late Kip McKlaren Culver, whom Cornwell describes as “energy on fire.” Kip—a native of Globe who moved to LA and worked in stage, theater, and broadcast on Entertainment Tonight and with film critic Leonard Maltin before returning to Globe to care for his parents—helped revitalize Globe as a prime set location. It began with his vision to restore the jail and the train depot and culminated with the 2011 indie film Shouting Secrets. Globe native Chris Swinney, a veteran stuntman, was scouting locations for Shouting Secrets and wanted to include the jail in Globe, so he and Kip partnered together to film the movie in Globe.
While Kip acted in the movie, Molly managed things behind the scenes, acting as the liaison between Globe residents interested in acting in the movies, baking cookies for the filming crew, and opening museums and stores after hours to make the headlining actors feel comfortable and remember Globe as a good place. “It’s the care you put on the back end that secures more on the front end,” Molly says. Although there had been several commercials and short movies shot in Globe’s recent past, Shouting Secrets is the movie that started the second wave of filming in Globe. When Kip passed away suddenly in July of 2015, Molly stepped in to keep his dream alive.
Word of mouth spread in the industry, and soon filmmakers were flocking to Globe. The amazing locations are what initially drew producers to Globe. “The 1910 prison just screams to be filmed,” says Molly, and because parts of the prison are salvaged from different jails, all the cells have a different look, which makes it great for filming. Similarly, the train depot, which was built in 1916, translates to any of the eras from the 1900s to the 1940s.
However, equally valuable are the extras that Molly, the Globe Downtown Association, and the residents of Globe contribute—services such as hotels, restaurants, caterers, actors/extras, props, makeup, and costumes, as well as promo and marketing. Recently, a 1910 movie filmed its train scenes at the train passenger station and the depot , and the Association brought in period costumes including many from Molly’s personal stash, during filming to ensure they were period correct. “We have so many uniforms, gloves, hats, suitcases, and other props to help filmmakers be ‘period correct,’” Molly says. “They love it.”
Molly also meets with film scouts to show them all the possibilities of Globe, which often results in filmmakers writing scenes specific to place so they can incorporate parts of Globe in their movies. Sometimes the whole movie is filmed in Globe, and other times parts of movies or just a scene. Filming benefits Globe financially and promotes tourism, but it also immortalizes a piece of history. “Part of our Main Street mission is preservation,” says Molly. “Some of that is physical restoration, but the films document the place.”
In addition to full-feature movies, numerous commercials, student films, and music videos are filmed in Globe. “We’re currently on a roll with death-metal music videos filmed in the jail,” Molly says with a laugh. On the other end of the spectrum, last month Simply Three, a bass/cello/violin trio, released a cover of “Dance Monkey” which was filmed in one of Miami’s 1916 CopperBelt building.
Although certainly not a recent development, Globe is also in high demand for its paranormal activity. For decades, Molly and the Globe Downtown Association, have worked with ghost hunters who are intrigued by the prolific paranormal activity in the old jail, and now it accommodates numerous YouTubers intrigued by rumors of the ghosts of prisoners such as Kingsley Olds. “We host a lot of lock-ins and paranormal investigations at the jail, and have conducted the Ghosts of Globe theatrical presentation for almost twenty-five years, exploring Globe’s haunted side,” says Molly.
Globe’s ghostly population is responsible for Globe landing several episodes of Ghost Adventures, a paranormal reality TV series that’s currently the number one show on the Travel Channel. It all started in 2017 when journalist Ozzy Mora filmed a promo piece for Globe’s annual haunted house held in the old jail. The flurry of paranormal activity her visit incited spurred so many shares and reviews, Ghost Adventures ended up filming two episodes in Globe —one at the Old Gila County Jail in January of 2018 and the other at the Drift Inn Saloon in January of 2020.
Molly Cornwell reports that it’s not unusual for musicians filming music videos and film crew personnel to come out of the jail terrified. “Batteries drain, data disappears, lights flicker, and doors slam,” she says. “But for every paranormal occurrence, you get three more crews that want to see if they have the same experience.
However, the biggest film Globe has ever seen has been in the works for the last two years and will release in late fall of this year. Directed by Zack Ward and produced by James Hong and Ace Underhill, Patsy Lee & the Keepers of the Five Kingdoms is a feel-good movie about a curio show owner in Arizona and his granddaughter who are transported to a mystical land through a portal stone and must find their way back. The movie may become a series, which “would be a big deal to the community,” says Molly, who worked with production teams to secure permissions to use Globe and Miami place names as well as the Tiger-Vandal rivalry.
Globe has become such a hot spot for filming that even the COVID pandemic couldn’t quench the film industry’s appetite for Globe, and Molly has had to think on her feet to keep revenue coming in, actually doubling production during the pandemic.
“We had a lot of Westerns, which incorporated bandanas as face coverings, and medical scenes with masks,” Molly explains. “One crew even quarantined together in a cabin property north of Globe for the entire shoot. We just found ways to do things on a smaller scale to keep things going.” Eighty-five percent of the recently released Skinwalker, 100 percent of The New Frontier, and 85 percent of The Woman Who Robbed a Stagecoach were shot on location in Globe during COVID.
“The filmmakers said, ‘It’s the perfect town. It’s every decade and every era,’” says Molly. “It’s what we all know Globe to be, but it’s nice to hear it.”
For more information on filming in Globe-Miami contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-435-7477. Or find them on FB at Globe-Miami AZ Filming Resources
Deborah Dove is an award-winning freelance writer, editor whose passion is bringing stories to life.
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