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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Chinatown gets a New York makeover

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I was walking up St. Laurent this evening when I noticed that Wah Fung, a gift shop located just above Viger, had a new sign. It was nice, but something was off. That’s when I noticed that it was in Chinese and English. “Meubles, paravents, pots & fleurs, vases, cadres, lampes (2ème étage)” had become “Furniture, umbrellas, flowers and pots, vases, frames, lamps (2nd floor).”

Hmm, I thought. That will make some people upset.

Walking down the street a bit, I noticed that almost every store on the block had new signs, all of which were very similar to the old ones except for the fact that the French had been replaced by English. When I realized that Restaurant Hong Kong had become Imperial Dim Sum, that there was a newsstand standing at the corner of the Main and La Gauchetière (with a big sign reading “NEWSSTAND,” no less), and that there were two US postboxes where a Canadian one normally stands, I realized that this block of Chinatown had been transformed into a film set.

The film, it turns out, is The Punisher: War Zone, an lousy-looking American feature that will be released sometime next year. Set in New York, it’s being shot in Montreal, which involves the recreation of New York on our streets, or at least a somewhat acceptable facsimile of it. Earlier this month, I stumbled across Phillips Square as it was being made to resemble the corner of 14th and Fifth Avenue in New York, complete with New York City street signs and a flimsy-looking fake subway entrance.

It’s always fun to spot Canadian cities standing in for American ones in Hollywood movies. Sometimes, the effect is decent, like when Toronto turned into Baltimore for the remake of Hairspray. Other times, it’s laughably bad, like when Vancouver (mountains and all) posed for the Bronx in Rumble in the Bronx.

UPDATE: Spacing Montrealer Cedric Sam stopped by Chinatown this evening and took more photos of the final preparations for The Punisher‘s shoot. The newsstand has “opened” for business and more New York City details have been added.



  1. I remember watching American Psycho and recognizing downtown Toronto. Also, while I haven’t seen the film, I’ve heard that Resident Evil 2 doesn’t even attempt to mask the fact that it was shot in Toronto, which makes me want to watch it. Here’s what the wikipedia entry has to say:

    The majority of the movie was filmed in Ontario, Canada; with Toronto and its surrounding suburbs being a stand-in for Racoon City. Toronto City Hall and Exhibition Place (namely the National Trade Centre) were used as Umbrella’s worldwide headquarters, while the logos of Canada’s largest banks feature prominently in the skyline shots of the city, and the Prince Edward Viaduct is used to represent the only exit out of Racoon City.

    It’s interesting that despite the exchange rate Hollywood films are still being shot in Canada.

  2. That is pretty neat! Pap Pap Market, with a 222 phone number as well! I guess it must be rather interesting for shop owners to see their store signs Newyorkified.


  3. Interesting movie review, “lousy.” In Los Angeles, we tend not to review unfinished films, preferring to actually see them first. And, being an industry town where quite a bit of filming goes on, we know on what side our bread is buttered.

  4. Howdy!

    And they are planning on shooting outdoor scenes tonight! tee-hee!

  5. Yes, Nomad, this post was clearly intended to be a movie review. And yes, Spacing clearly represents the views of more than a handful of writers. God.

    Anyway, about a month ago, I was on a metro pulling into Lionel-Groulx, and one end of the platform was dressed up with neon lighting all over for some sort of shoot. It was neat, but sadly I was in a rush, so I didn’t investigate about the title…

  6. They were also shooting scenes from this LOUSY film at my CEGEP(Vanier College) Monday. They turned one of the entrances into the entrance of a National Bank…which is odd since the film is supposed to be set in nyc…

  7. In the late 90’s, I saw a Mexico City Metro station(Chabacano) transformed for some Arnold S. movie(Never saw the movie).
    The biggest reason is “costs” . It’s cheaper to transform a whole street here Montreal then to close a street in NY City for more then twelve hours for a shoot.
    And on a design point of view, NY city is being transformed so much and old, low level buildings like these ones aren’t available anymore.
    But this would be a good idea for a book.

  8. Is it a ‘French’ thing to bash a movie before its even hit the theaters?I hope not.So whenever ‘Hollywood’ films a movie in Canada it’s doomed and will be garbage? Geez thats a rather arrogant and rude comment to make.If i had a Hollywood movie crew filming a movie in my town i’d be pretty excited.I guess not’Montreal’though. :(

  9. It’s funny how many movies take place in New York that can’t actually be filmed in New York. It’s always been my opinion that if you’re forced to film in another city, you should change the script, even if comic fanboys flip out about it.

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