We’re singing “Hooray for Hollywood, that phony super Coney Hollywood”! Not only is Men in Black 3 filming in Coney from May 2 through 6, they’ve leased Coney Island’s oldest building, the Grashorn, from Thor Equities and rescued it from oblivion. A construction crew is already fixing up the gutted interior of the building located at Surf and Jones Walk to use as their location headquarters.
Men In Black 3 stars Will Smith as Agent J traveling back in time to 1969 to stop a villain from killing a young Agent K played by Josh Brolin. According to the storyline, if the killing were carried out in the past, it would result in the destruction of Earth in the present. The production company is giving some of the buildings on Surf Avenue, Jones Walk and the Bowery a 1960′s look, including retro signage. At least one concessionaire on the Walk has plans to keep the look through the summer. Filming will also take place on the Boardwalk and in Wonder Wheel Park.
Jimmy, the Balloon Dart operator on the Bowery, is among the Coney Islanders who have been cast as extras. No word yet on whether Target the World-Famous Coney Arcade Cat has been hired for a walk-on. There was a casting call last week for “1969 New Yorkers (hippies, beatnik poets, ’60s celebrity look-a-likes, bikers, models, etc…), people who are less than 4′10 or more than 6′5, plus-sized people, and men and women with character faces.” Last year, the website joblo reported that ’60s era celebrities like Yoko Ono, Jimi Hendrix and Andy Warhol would appear in the film as aliens. The script has gone through a lot of changes. Filmed in 3-D, Men in Black 3 is set to be released on May 25, 2012.
As for the Grashorn, the fact that it’s getting rehabbed by the movie company has the Coney Island Rumor Mill saying it will be rented out afterward to game concessionaires. In Coney Island: Lost and Found, historian Charles Denson writes that the building at 1104 Surf dates back to the 1880’s and the Grashorn hardware store served Coney Island’s amusement businesses for more than 60 years: “The clapboard façade, dormers, cast iron resting, chimneys and fish-scale shingles were removed when the building was renovated in the 1980s but the mansard roof retains its shape.” Here’s a photo of the way the building looked in 1969. Will it look like this again when Men in Black 3 travels back in time next month?
Over the past two years, the Grashorn Building has fallen victim to squatters, blight and burst water pipes. Sideshow operator John Strong as well as two different arcade owners tried but failed to lease the space from Thor. The building remained shuttered and vacant during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In January, one of Thor Equities’ omnipresent “Stores for Lease” banners went up on the Grashorn Building.
UPDATE April 25, 2011:
Photo op! Booths and signs for the Men in Black 3 set started going up today on the beach side of Coney Island’s Boardwalk. Madame Zava Phrenology and a Balloon Dart have already been set up. Jones Walk and the Bowery are also expected to get some retro signage. Since the film shoot isn’t scheduled till May 2nd, you’ll be able to travel back to 1969 if you come to Coney Island next weekend!
Related posts on ATZ…
May 2, 2011: Men in Black 3 Set Transforms Coney Island Boardwalk
January 21, 2011: Thor’s Coney Island: Coney’s Oldest Building for Lease
January 1, 2011: Amusing the Zillion’s Top 10 Coney Island News Stories of 2010