Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Terminal Playground: A Transit Lounge to Nowhere

Look at the image above (click on any of the photos for a close-up view; click back on your internet brower to return to the home page). Can you guess the airport terminal? In real life this terminal existed only for the filming of the Steven Spielberg directed movie "The Terminal". Tom Hanks stars as a stranded visitor in a NYC airport. The Hopeful Traveler watches this movie for the set as much as for the story. The attention to detail and production design makes one hope that this terminal really existed in contrast to the cramp and tired terminals that exist in reality.

The entire three-story set was built as a free-standing piece of real architecture in a massive hangar in California that was used to repair 747 airplanes. The set included 60,000 square feet of genuine granite flooring and most notable, four working escalators; the first built exclusively for a movie set. The movie set was a feasible alternative due to the security and time constraints of filming at a live working airport.

The more realistic aspects of the set were the 35 retailers within the terminal. Part of the fun is spotting these stores and restaurants all designed to the retailer's standards and with an inventory of actual products.

Try and watch the movie and spot these retailers:
- Duty Free, Verizon Wireless, Dean and Deluca, Discovery Store, Brookstone, Cambridge Sound Works, Hugo Boss, La Perla, Hudson News, Borders Books, Paul Mitchell, Godiva, Swatch, Harry and David's and Origins.

Around the food court of the movie set, looks for these eateries:
- Burger King, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, Baja Fresh, Panda Express, Nathan's Famous, Au Bon Pain, Yoshinoya, S'barro's, Krispy Kreme, The Daily Grill and Starbucks.

Among real airport service companies, you'll find American Express Foreign Exchange, Citibank (ATMs) and Smarte Carte.

The movie press materials state that some of the food outlets, such as Starbucks, were staffed by actual employees. Where extras minded the store, they were given training sessions as if they were actually working behind the counter. Interesting fact: All the retailers agreed to build replicas of their stores without knowlege of the role their shop may play in the film.

Adding to the realism were the main flight information board and monitors which displayed actual flight schedules from the International Terminal at JFK International Airport.

The most prominent airline featured in the film is United Airlines for which the character played by Catherine Zeta-Jones is a flight attendant. There are also a couple of prominent scenes on the third level of the set which is the UAL first-class lounge.

One thing that the set decorator had to be mindful off: Any of the magazines at the retailers or any extra was holding could not have the image of the stars, Zeta-Jones or Hanks. Obvsiously why would a flight attendant or a stranded visitor be on the front of People magazine.

Why does the Hopeful Traveler enjoy the film? The main character has a reason for visiting NYC. He has a realistic purpose and accomplished it in the end. But along the way he experiences an adventure and meets people he will never forget.

"The Terminal" (2004) is available on DVD from Dreamworks Video. A bonus disc featuring material about the making of the movie is available on the hard-to-find three-disc collector's edition. More info about the film including 3D Virtual Tours of the set can be found at Photographs: Dreamworks


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