Excitement and a bit of Christmas spirit were in the air Thursday as crews prepared to film a scene for “Happiest Season” in Grove City.
“I love Grove City. It’s kind of neat to see Christmas in Grove City,” Linda Brady said.
The Grove City resident brought her granddaughter Brooke Eakin, 11, to South Broad Street, which was being turned into a film set complete with holiday decorations, lights, and a Christmas tree lot.
“Happiest Season” is a TriStar Productions romantic comedy set at Christmastime, and it’s been shooting in western Pennsylvania. It stars Kristen Stewart, known for the “Twilight” film series.
Thursday’s scene included Nonni’s Corner Trattoria, and the Guthrie Theatre, which changed its marquee and movie posters to feature “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Part of South Broad Street was closed while crews put the finishing touches on Olde Town Grove City.
Spectators were asked to move further up the street once filming began.
Brady and Brooke were among a small group of people who braved the cold – the wind chill was about 5 degrees by late Thursday afternoon – to get an up-close look at a movie set, which they agreed was very exciting for Grove City.
“It’s something new for the area,” said Rachel Haney-Myers of Hermitage.
She plans to see the movie, which will be released on Nov. 20. She is interested in becoming an actress, so she ventured to Grove City for the day to check out the activity surrounding “Happiest Season.”
Sisters Jalisa Williams of Grove City and Jenna Williams, a student at Slippery Rock University, said that most people wouldn’t expect a big-budget film to end up somewhere like Grove City.
“I think it will bring a lot of business to the town ...They definitely hit the jackpot here,” said Jalisa Williams.
They’re fans of Stewart and hope to see the movie.
The Guthrie would like to show the movie, and maybe even have a special event on opening night, said Spencer T. Folmar, president and founder of Veritas Arts, the nonprofit that runs the theater.
Folmar, who is also a movie director and producer, reached out to the film crew when he learned that “Happiest Season” was filming in the Pittsburgh area.
Location scouts had been looking for a small-town street with an old-fashioned movie theater, and Olde Town fit the bill.
“We think it would look great in film,” he said.
TriStar is owned by Sony Pictures, and the movie has some big names including Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy, Mary Steenburgen, Victor Garber, Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than this,” Folmar said.
Ann Marie O’Rourke, Olde Town manager, agreed that it’s great exposure for Grove City.
“Having all the work of Grow Grove City’s revitalization recognized is wonderful. To be selected as a location for a film ... what a wonderful opportunity for Grove City,” she said.
Elliott Lengel of Findley Township was an extra in the movie, and he’s excited to see himself and Grove City on the big screen.
“It was a new learning experience,” he said on Friday morning.
The crew started filming at about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, and he was done at about midnight.
Lengel acted as a pedestrian on South Broad Street, and he was in the background during a part shot inside the Guthrie.
He wore his own clothes, and he had fun spending time with the crew members and other extras.
“The extras came from all over,” he said.
He even got to see Santa Claus, who also appears in the Grove City scene.
“It was a nice set,” Lengel said.
Grove City Borough Manager Vance Oakes said that everything went smoothly, and there’s been a lot of interest.
“We’ve been getting lots of calls,” he said, referring to people who were interested in becoming an extra.
Grove City police Chief Dean Osborne said that his department was assisting with traffic control, and that they provided two patrolmen; the borough will be reimbursed for that expense.
Rachael Roth, a spokesperson with Iron City Film Works, which served as a liaison between the borough and TriStar, said they would not be offering any comments or interviews at this time.