6817 Franklin Avenue
Hollywood, CA / (323) 874-2104

When you drive north up Highland Avenue, heading from downtown Hollywood to the Hollywood Bowl, it's hard not to notice the large stone church (with the 20-foot red AIDS ribbon on the steeple) looming right in front of you.

This is the Hollywood United Methodist Church, which (as you might guess) has been featured in a number of Hollywood movies.

When it was built in 1929, there were quite a few Hollywood stars among the congregation (which also included as were the Wilcox family which founded Hollywood.)

As the years went by, and most celebrities moved west to Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, that number has diminished. Still, though, there are a few stars left... Talk show host Leeza Gibbons is a member, and had all of her children baptized there.

But the church's main claim to Hollywood fame lies in the many hit films that have been shot on location there.

Some people mistakenly believe it was the church used in "War of the Worlds.." It was not. (That is St. Brendan's, located a few miles to the southeast.)

But this church did star in "Back to the Future," "That Thing You Do" and "Sister Act," among other films.

In "Back to the Future," the church gymnasium was the location for the high school prom/dance scene (with an "Enchantment Under the Sea" theme) where Michael J. Fox reunites his parents and takes the stage to perform a wicked guitar version of "Johnny Be Good."

In "Sister Act," virtually the entire church served as an on-location set for the story of Whoopi Goldberg posing as a nun.

The scene where the nuns ate at a long table and the scene where Whoopi was scrubbing floors were both shot in Grant Hall of the church.

The scene where the nuns were gossiping in the kitchen over ice cream was in the church kitchen.

The choir room in the movie was the church's actual choir room, and many of the passage scenes and door entrances, such as the Chapel were also part of the church.

(As a bonus to filming at Hollywood United Methodist Church, Disney/Touchstone released their original music score of "Sister Act" to the HUMC Sanctuary Choir, which held a concert singing the score before anyone else.)

In Tom Hanks' "That Thing You Do," it was back to the same gym stage that was used in "Back to the Future." This time, though, it was the setting for a college talent show where the movie's fictitious pop-rock group, "The Wonders," first sang their hit song "That Thing You Do!" in public. In the scene, the group's drummer surprises them by speeding up the tempo of the song, with very positive results.

In addition to the movies, several TV shows have also been shot at HUMC, including episodes of "Murder, She Wrote," "Jake and the Fat Man," "The Golden Girls" and "Days of Our Lives."

The church's gym is also often used for movie auditions. Not long ago, director Jerry Bruckheimer held auditions here for his new movie "Coyote Ugly."

More recently, the church has seen a new wave of Hollywood activity: they just signed a deal with 20th Century Fox for the church to be used in a production starring Martin Lawrence (scenes will be filmed in the same dining room, Grant Hall, that was seen in "Sister Act.")

Also, Sally Field was there making her directorial debut with the filming of of "Beautiful," with Paula Abdul as choreographer. The movie stars Minnie Driver.

And the Radio City Music Hall's famous dancers, the Rockettes, used the church for rehearsals of their annual Christmas show (held at the Universal Amphitheatre), and plan to rehearse there in the future when the show is in town.

The giant red AIDS ribbon (which makes the church so easy to identify) went up on the church in 1992 to show the church's strong commitment to their AIDS ministry, since other churches condemned those who are affected. Their AIDS ministry helps feed those at the USC/LA County Hospital, Tuesday's Child (an AIDS organization for children), home care and hospices.

Getting there: The Hollywood United Methodist Church is located just north of the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland, and you can see the large, Gothic church from that corner. Just drive north a few blocks, to Franklin, and look for the red ribbon. You can't miss it.

[For more information, you can access the church's official website at: http://www.HollywoodUMC.org.]

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