Remember the scene in the Blues Brothers movie where Jake and Elwood tear up a suburban mall while being chased by a flock of Chicago police officers? Have you ever wondered how the filmmakers pulled this scene off? Did they build huge movie set somewhere and shoot all the scenes carefully? Well, not exactly. Here’s the story.
The Dixie Square Mall
The answer to the question about the “set” is easy to answer: there was no Hollywood set. The mall that was trashed in the movie was a real one. It was the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. Here’s the history of the mall.
History of the Dixie Square Mall
At one time the Dixie Square Mall was brand new and the pride of Harvey, Illinois. Built for a cost of $25 million dollars, the mall opened in 1966 with 50 stores. By 1968 the mall grew to full capacity with 64 stores. Business was good for the mall’s owners.
But, in the early 1970s, crime was becoming a big problem for Harvey and the mall was right smack-dab in the center of it. Soon, due to an increase in crime and general economic decline, the Mall began to lose stores. By 1979, the mall was completely empty!
Hollywood comes knocking
In the mid-1970s, the location people working for Hollywood director John Landis were looking for a large mall that he could film a car chase scene in for his new movie “The Blues Brothers.” As it turned out, the abandoned Dixie Square Mall was a perfect location and it was available. The Town of Harvey was more than eager to let it be use for a movie and then restored to former glory.
In August 1979, Landis’s production company rented the entire mall and went about dressing it up so it appeared open and fully-functional again. By the end of the year, principle photography on the Blues Brother’s movie began.
The filming the Blues Brothers involved a lot of cars. First, according to Millers Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram (Martinsburg, WV,) the infamous Bluesmobile was a 1974 Dodge Monaco real ex-police car and actually featured what Elwood Blues stated: “It’s got a cop motor, a 440 CI plant. It’s got cop tires, cop suspemsion, cop shocks. It’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.” A total of twelve Bluesmobiles were used in the movie.
That number was just a fraction, however, of the police chase cars used! A total of 91 retired police cars were purchased from the California Highway Patrol and painted to look like Chicago patrol cars. It is said that only a few of the 91 police cars were drivable after filming was finished.
The mall post-filming
It should be no surprise that a large portion of the mall was destroyed during the filming of the mall chase sequence. Just watch the movie and you will see why. And when the filming was finished, the production crew left most of the mall in ruins and headed back to California.
As it turned out, this was not what the mall owner’s believed they were signing up for. Since the property was technically just rented, they assumed it was going to be restored and it never was.
During the 1980s, the shape of the mall deteriorated even more. Vandals broke almost everything and thieves stole all the valuable building materials. Soon the mall turned into a haven for gangs and drug activity.
End of the Road
In 2010, the governor of Illinois finally announced a government grant of $4 million dollars to demolish the mall. In January of 2012, the permits for demolition were finally issued and the mall was completely demolished by mid-2012. Today, the land is a level lot awaiting future development.