A brand new Oregon Film Trail sign has been installed and was unveiled today in Athena, honoring the town’s starring role as a location in the silent film, City Girl. It sits outside the Gem Theatre, Athena. The Gem Theatre hosted the dedication of the newest sign on the Oregon Film Trail, in celebration of the local filming of this F.W. Murnau silent feature film.
The current pandemic situation didn’t allow for a large public dedication but instead, local government representatives attended a photo opportunity with the sign at the dedication. Oregon Film was there to help celebrate and welcome the 15th sign to the Oregon Film Trail.
City Girl starred Mary Duncan, who spent several weeks in and around Athena shooting the farm scenes that were shot at the top of Thorn Hollow (approximately 6 miles from downtown Athena). Many local crews and livestock were used in the harvesting wheat scenes during the summer of 1928.
The sign was placed next to the City Girl mural located on the west side of the Gem Theatre. This sign marks and celebrates important filming locations close to Athena that served as a backdrop for this classic silent movie. The sign features a few facts and anecdotes about the film.
Dating back to 1909, Oregon has a rich and interesting film history with well over 500 feature films & television shows that have utilized thousands of locations around the state for a wide variety of production backdrops. Today, Oregon continues to be a destination for creative media producers from around the world. From Emmy winning television productions, to Oscar-nominated feature films; world-class animated films to award-winning interactive games – Oregon is a brand unto itself.
Oregon Film, in partnership with the Oregon Made Creative Foundation, created the Oregon Film Trail featuring signage located at strategic points around the state. The creation of the Trail aims to strengthen the correlation between the film/TV industry, economic development, and tourism as well as celebrating unique Oregon locations that are iconic in their own right.
Rob McIntyre, Project Manager at the Gem Theatre, has worked in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Film and TV and the Oregon Made Creative Foundation to bring this Trail stop to Athena. McIntyre has worked hard to revive the Gem Theatre (formerly known as “The Standard Theatre,” and its shared history with Athena. McIntyre said, “The history of Athena is full of unlikely facts and stories, for example, the company that built Hodaka motorcycles was based here, and it is surprising to think that at one time Athena was the banking capitol of eastern Oregon. Additionally, I still find it amazing that the filming of an F.W. Murnau film was shot in the wheat fields so close to town. We found the surprising record of this in the Athena Press newspaper while researching the history of our theatre. When this was rediscovered, there was a reference made of a local eyewitness (a grandson of the livestock handler who worked on the film) to filming and the crew who were living and working here in the summer of 1928. This local eyewitness still to this day resides here in town. Unfortunately, the movie never showed in Athena. The Depression had shuttered the theatre, along with many other Athena businesses, and many citizens relocated, but the locals held many a “hard times party” in lieu of “moving picture shows.”
Currently, McIntyre is working toward the full renovation of the Gem Theatre with the help of the local high school students and citizens of Athena, and although the theatre is not completely finished, McIntyre noted that “with the completion of the Gem, we will be the site of a regional facility for the visual and musical arts.”
Visitors and fans of other many other movies such as; One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Twilight, Point Break, The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, Twilight, Sometimes a Great Notion, Free Willy, Short Circuit, Stand By Me, etc., have been visiting the many Oregon scene locations since these films were first released. Some of these Trail signs can be seen in; Astoria, Gleneden Beach, Ecola State Park, Hammond Marina/Warrenton, Brownsville, Salem, Depoe Bay, and coming soon to Cottage Grove, Silver Falls State Park among others.
“The connection of City Girl not only to the city of Athena but to the Gem Theatre is so special,” said Tim Williams, Executive Director of Oregon Film, “and I’m grateful and proud to be able to celebrate this recognition that’s now nearly a century overdue.”
Phase two of the Oregon Film Trail is already underway with the research of a digital AR experience being developed for some of the Trail stops, as well as an already-completed digital Trail map which the many Oregon Film Trail partners will be able to utilize for their own promotions.
The Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce and the Oregon Film Office developed the initial Oregon Film Trail concept and identified the Astoria movie locations as the first signs to be rolled out on the Trail last year with help from the Oregon Film Museum. Additionally, Oregon State Parks partnered with Oregon Film with the Oregon Made Creative Foundation to install a sign at Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site, three subsequent signs in Brownsville were also unveiled with partners; the City of Brownsville, the Linn County Historical Museum, Brownsville Chamber of Commerce and Oregon Made Creative Foundation, and a further sign on the north coast at the Hammond Marina, Warrenton, was installed with partnership from Hammond Marina, the City of Warrenton, the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce and funding from the Oregon Coast Visitors Association. Two signs are located in Salem at the Oregon Museum of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections, with support from Salem resident, Erik Andersson, Travel Salem, and paid for in part by a grant from Travel Oregon, two signs and a map panel were unveiled at Ecola State Park and Indian Beach in partnership with the Oregon Coast Visitor’s Association and State Parks. Depoe Bay has a sign at the harbor that was placed in partnership with the Depoe Bay Chamber of Commerce.
New locations are being explored and identified all the time from, Ashland to Joseph, St. Helens to Cottage Grove, and Burns to Toledo. Suggestions are always welcome ([email protected]).
About Oregon Made Creative Foundation:
The OMCF is a stand-alone 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation founded through the efforts of Oregon Film (a/k/a the Oregon Governor’s Office of Film & Television). The OMCF supports storytellers, filmmakers, and artists to attain sustainable careers in the arts, especially the digital arts. Additionally, the Foundation strives to draw together – under its #OregonMade banner – support, momentum, and assistance for all of Oregon communities, whether they be urban, suburban, or rural, and to help build and strengthen the connections among them. www.oregonmade.org
About the Gem Theatre
The Athena Gem Theatre is located in Athena, Oregon, in the heart of eastern Oregon wheat country, overlooking the Umatilla Indian Reservation about 20 minutes North of Pendleton, Oregon. After thirteen years of perseverance, Athena’s Gem is starting to wrap up the renovation of this sacred space for the arts in rural Northeast Oregon. “In-kind” donated labor valued at $400K, 2/3 of this work provided by students age 12-18, has been leveraged to garner nearly $1.3M in grant funding. The Gem was awarded $300K by the State of Oregon via HB5201 for ongoing renovation and the Pacific Power “Blue Sky” program fully funded a 26 Kw solar array for the theatre. Over the spring and summer months, the building has been wired, plumbed, interior framing completed, HVAC and solar installed.
The “City Girl” mural, celebrating the local 1928 production of that Fox feature films, graces the side of the theatre.
You can contribute to the Gem Theatre’s renovation campaign here.