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'Promised Land' brings Hollywood feel to Alle-Kiski Valley communities

' Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Movie production trucks line Pennsylvania Avenue in Apollo, closing one lane of traffic, but still allowing residents to travel with little interruption during filming of 'Promised Land.

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By Laura Mazur
Monday, Dec. 24, 2012, 7:16 p.m.

Hollywood will once again show the world the towns of the Alle-Kiski Valley and Pittsburgh areas this Friday, Dec. 28, when “Promised Land” debuts in theaters.

Directed by Gus Van Sant, the film stars Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook and John Krasinski in a drama about two corporate salespeople visiting the rural town of McKinley, attempting to buy drilling rights from residents, who have been hit hard by the recent economic downturn.

Filming for the movie, which had a production budget of $15 million, began in late April and lasted approximately a month in the area, with Avonmore serving as the backdrop of the fictitious town of McKinley, where the resource extraction process hydraulic fracturing, colloquially known as “fracking,” is debated.

Behind the scenes of “Promised Land,” St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Avonmore graciously played host to the production set by providing space for the cast and crews' meals. The church is a half a block from where the film set was located.

Locals turned up daily to watch production. To star gaze and marvel at the making of movies.

Some even were cast as extras. Ann Krafick of Vandergrift said she worked as an extra for four days and can't wait to see the movie.

“I'm so anxious to see if I made it into any of the scenes,” she said.

Other filming locations in the local and Pittsburgh area included Alexandria, Apollo, Delmont, Export, Slate Lick, West Mifflin, Worthington and the Grand Concourse at Station Square in Pittsburgh.

Produced by companies Focus Features and Participant Media, the movie is based on a screenplay by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, who are film producers along with Chris Moore. The screenplay was based on a story by Dave Eggers.

Although Pittsburgh has been hailed as the “City of Champions” in recent years because of the Steelers' six Super Bowl wins, it can also add Hollywood “hotspot” to its resume, having played host to a number of blockbusters filmed in and around the city in the past couple of years.

Movies that have emerged this year with the area as a backdrop include “Won't Back Down,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Also, on Dec. 21, action-packed “Jack Reacher,” starring Tom Cruise, showed off Pittsburgh scenery.

“Promised Land” comes to select theaters this Friday, Dec. 28, but a nationwide release will follow next Friday, Jan. 4. The film's international premiere is additionally slated for the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival in February.

Laura Mazur is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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