“New York, You’ve Changed” is a Scouting NY feature in which the New York depicted in classic movies is compared with the city of today, a full shot-by-shot dissection to see what once was and what has changed. Side note: I think this concept would make for an excellent coffee table/photo book, and if anyone might be interested (ahem TASCHEN ahem), please contact me!
Annie Hall may just be the best movie ever made in New York.
Now before you let loose in the comments about why it’s NOT the best film ever made in New York, please note that I said may be! May be! But even on a list with The Godfather, The Godfather Part 2, Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon, Do The Right Thing, even Allen’s own Manhattan, you have to admit that Annie Hall is a fierce contender.
What’s really crazy is that Annie Hall is a film that almost wasn’t – at least, in the form we know it today. Originally titled Anhedonia (the scientific term for the inability to experience pleasure), Alvy’s relationship with Annie Hall was just a portion of the overall movie. Some of the stuff that was left out, including a trip to hell and a scene in which the Knicks play Allen and a team of philosophers, is the stuff of cinematic legend (read all about that here).
So how has the 1976 New York of Annie Hall changed in 36 years?
The movie opens with Alvy reminiscing about growing up in a house located under the roller coaster at Coney Island. Go there today and you’ll find…a vacant lot:
Contrary to popular belief, Alvy’s house was not under the Cyclone, but actually the now demolished Thunderbolt:
A wooden rollercoaster designed by famed coaster architect John Miller, the Thunderbolt ran from 1925 until 1982. Alvy’s house was set in the Kensington Hotel, built in 1895. Owner George Moran decided to build the coaster right over the roof, and lived in the house until the 1980’s.
Sadly, the entire property was left to rot for nearly two decades, and fell into significant disrepair:
Finally, on November 17, 2000, Giuliani sent in bulldozers without warning to raze the coaster and the historic Kensington, much to the dismay of locals and preservationists.
It really blows my mind that, over 12 years later, it’s still just a weed-strewn dirt lot. This was really better? At the very least, could we please erect another iconic roller coaster in its place, perhaps one with a little house underneath the tracks?
Moving on: in one of my favorite jokes of the movie (that I swear audiences never catch), Alvy recalls a pretty questionable childhood memory of running along the boardwalk with a bunch of 1950’s stereotypes. Pictured in the background is Steve’s Clam Bar:
I’m pretty sure Steve’s was located on the boardwalk about one block east from the Thunderbolt, which you can see in the background. Today, not too many clams are being sold here:
Alvy’s dad used to run the bumper cars…
Could this possibly be the “Bump Your Ass Off” Eldorado? This is a tough one, as bumper car joints have come and gone over the past 30+ years. I know there are some Coney Island aficionados out there – does it ring any bells?
The movie then skips ahead to the present, where we find Alvy walking down the street with his friend Rob. The scene was shot on East 66th between 2nd & 3rd Avenues…
…and hardly anything has changed since then, right down to trees:
This is one of my favorite shots in the film: lasting a whopping 1 minute 17 seconds, we can barely see the two as the shot opens. As they finally come up to the camera, we track with them until they finally disappear:
Next, while waiting outside the Beekman movie theater for Annie, Alvy encounters an irritating fan who won’t leave him alone.
Today, you won’t be seeing any movies here…
The Beekman opened in 1952 as a one-screen theater and operated as an art house until its demolition in 2005. At the very least, its destruction was for a good cause: a breast cancer research facility was built in its place.
Following its demise, The Clearview One & Two theater across the street was renamed the Beekman in honor of the defunct movie house:
Reader Ruban I. reports that the interior was not the Beekman, but actually the lobby at the also defunct New Yorker theater.
The film jumps ahead in their relationship, and we find Alvy and Annie driving out to Annie’s Hamptons beach house.
I’m not 100% sure, but I would bet quite a lot of money this was shot on Dune Road in the Hamptons, which is just about the only road that makes sense.
Running along the South Shore in exactly the same way as the road pictured in the film…
…even the electrical poles match up:
Except, for the life of me, I could not find Annie Hall’s house. Today, if you drive down Dune Road, this is the sort of beach house you’ll find…
Enormous beach house after ridiculous beach house, stretching all along the coast:
Annoyingly, every time I tried to get out of the car to take a picture, I was attacked by swarms of vicious green heads. Really sucks to spend all those millions of dollars for these things only to get eaten alive by flies every summer, huh?
Every once in a while, I’d come across a place that looked right…
…but then, checking the frame would reveal it to be off in some way. At the very least, the house is definitely located along the road they’re driving on – you can see it up ahead in the first frame.
What should have been a dead giveaway is this dock, which seems to stretch out from the house in the second frame above of the couple driving. I checked the coastline via Google Maps – doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
I really hope it wasn’t torn down and replaced by a McMansion. It’d be nice to know that someone might still be cooking lobsters there to this day:
As they’re walking along the beach, Annie talks about a former boyfriend in Chippewa Falls, who we briefly see waiting for her in front of a movie theater. Anyone have any idea where this is? I’ve checked most of the Plaza theaters in the NYC area, and none of them match up. The Village Soda Shoppe bit on the left is clearly set-dressing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if even the Plaza sign was fake.
The movie jumps through time yet again to the day when Alvy first met Annie, at the Wall Street Racquet Club, built on a pair of piers jutting out where Wall Street meets the East River:
Try to play a set today, and you’ll sadly just find yourself underwater:
The Wall Street Raquet Club, once located on Pier 13 & 14 near the South Street Seaport, was actually in existence up until 2002, when the city shut it down ostensibly due to the deterioration of the structures (some believe the eviction was because of a plan to bring a Guggenheim extension to the site, which obviously never materialized):
Oddly, Pier 13 and 14 still show up on Google Maps, even though both are long gone:
Alvy and Annie play a few rounds…
…and then, Annie offers to give Alvy a ride home.
The duo careen up South Street under the FDR Drive, the Brooklyn Bridge ramps visible in the background…
As they continue up South Street, you see a whole bunch of crumbling buildings on the west side…
…all of which are gone now, replaced by modern buildings:
The reverse looking north…
More or less unchanged today (though we have a few more trees):
Finally, the two turn onto Annie’s street – East 68th between Madison & Park:
One change: the building on the far right is suddenly red brick:
The two have a brief exchange…
…then head up to Annie’s apartment:
So far, the geography in the movie makes sense: Alvy and Rob walk down East 66th Street because it’s a natural route to the Beekman, while Annie and Alvie drive up South Street because it’s how you’d leave the Wall Street Racquet Club.
So was East 68th chosen because that’s where Annie’s apartment actually was? It’s hard to tell – I can’t really make out any backyard balcony gardens on Google Maps satellite view, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
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