Need to do some star watching? No need to go to Hollywood.

While the mystique of movie making never really wears off, it isn’t all about Hollywood anymore. Granted, lots of movies do “location shoots”, traveling to far flung places to capture a landscape that looks like Mars, or features endless days of sun. Hollywood may still be the capital of movie making, but there’s a whole world of possibilities just down the road. So, pretend we are on one of those Hollywood tour buses, this one highlighting various filming locations in the Ontario region.

First Stop, Ontario International Airport

Ontario, California, in the Inland Empire, has a unique character and excellent location that makes it a popular choice for movie making, filming commercials and shooting television series. Can you come up with five movies filmed in Ontario, California?

Here’s a hint: most used Ontario International Airport facilities for filming.

  • Argo (2012), which tells the story of how a group of American embassy workers escaped from Iran during the Iran hostage crisis, featured Ontario International Airport. The interiors of the older section of the airport were used to depict Tehran Airport, the group’s final obstacle before gaining freedom.
  • Saving Mr. Banks (2013), the tale of how Walt Disney convinced the author of the Mary Poppins’ books to grant him movie rights, used the old airport buildings as a backdrop for 1960’s LA during the arrival of P.L. Travers from London.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002), with a true con artist as the central character, has a lot of scenes in and around airports. Parts of ONT Terminal 1 stood in for Miami, Florida, circa the 1960’s.
  • Zodiac (2007), about a 1970’s San Francisco serial killer and the reporters who track him, used the airport’s original terminal for filming.
  • Gone Girl (2014), a Twentieth Century Fox motion picture was filmed in part at the airport (plus, shooting took place at 1245 E. 4th Street in the city).

And, it is not all about movies. Ontario plays host to many television shows. In fact, even that bastion of retro-cool, Mad Men, showcases the airport in the first episode of its final season, when Don Draper arrives in Los Angeles.

Next, the Ontario Convention Center

Ontario’s movie cache goes beyond the airport. The Ontario Convention Center offers many options to film makers and commercial producers alike. The building has distinctive architecture, and has an array of possibilities for indoor scenes. The lobby features huge windows (over 45 feet high) and has plenty of floor space for staging large scenes. The convention center has another 70,000 square feet available in the exhibition hall that can be transformed into various styles.

Livewell Network’s Live Big with Ali Vincent filmed at the Convention Center, along with the now cancelled TV series LAX.

Driving Through to Commercials

Many companies turn to Ontario, California to film commercials. Just south of the airport, on Archibald Avenue is an Arby’s used in a commercial for that company in 2013. Station Film, a leading creative television ad maker, recently used Ontario International Airport as a location for a Progressive Insurance commercial. On East Concours, an Infusium 23 hair products commercial was filmed, as was one for Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Off to the Arena

Ontario’s Toyota Arena is home to the Ontario Reign Hockey Team, Ontario Fury Indoor Soccer Team, Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario D-League Basketball Team, and other concert, sporting and special events. It has been used in Nike commercials and in an episode of the series Cupcake Wars. UPS filmed a commercial using various streets throughout the City of Ontario.

How to Find Out More

There is an agency that handles filming for the Inland Empire, the Inland Empire Film Commission, located in San Bernardino. Where else could you find the variety of locations offered by the Ontario area? That’s why the commission refers to the region as "Hollywood's Largest Backlot!":

  • Natural settings, including sand dunes, lakes, dry lake beds, forests, deserts and farmland
  • Structures such as Missions, casinos, steel mills, ghost towns, wineries, homes of all types, airports and roads galore.

Next time you are driving around Ontario, California, keep your eyes peeled. You might just see some of that show business magic in play!