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Wednesday December 12th 2018

Independence Day | 1996

Independence Day filming location: US Bank Tower, West 5th Street, Downtown Los Angeles
Independence Day location: New-Agers gather on the rooftop to welcome the visitors: US Bank Tower, West 5th Street, Downtown Los Angeles

A youthful fighter pilot president, a rainbow coalition of heroes, flying saucers fifteen miles-wide and the willful destruction of national monuments made this whizzbang alien attack extravaganza a surprise smash.

The multiple storylines range all over the US, with the first hint of something odd coming from a signal received at the, briefly glimpsed, Karl G Jansky Very Large Array, west of Magdalena, New Mexico, as REM's It's The End Of The World As We Know It bounces merrily away on the radio. This facility also proves its extreme usefulness in Michael Bay's Armageddon and Robert Zemeckis's Contact.

Over on the East Coast in New York, a glimpse of the first of the 15-mile-wide alien ships brings to a stop the basketball game beneath the northern foot of the Manhattan Bridge and the nearby traffic on South Street at Pike Slip.

In the Tribeca district, there's a traffic pile-up on Church Street at Leonard Street as the ominous shadow rolls over the city.

Underachieving maths whizz David Levinson(Jeff Goldblum), squandering his talents working for a Manhattan cable company, passes time playing chess with his endlessly kvetching father Julius (Judd Hirsch) at Donnelly Memorial Park, JF Kennedy Boulevard East at Anthony M Defino Way alongside the Hudson River in West New York, New Jersey.

Julius lives a few blocks to the north at 36 64th Street, off Park Avenue, where David later begs a lift to Washington DC in the middle of mass panic.

Independence Day filming location: West 74th Street, Los Angeles
Independence Day location: the Dubrow home: West 74th Street, Los Angeles

On the West Coast, Capt Steven Hiller (Will Smith) wakes up at the home of his girlfriend Jasmine (Vivica A Fox), 6033 West 74th Street at Airport Boulevard, Westchester, just north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), oblivious to the growing hysteria. And, no, despite the reaction shot, there is no view of the freeway from the front door on this quiet suburban street.

Independence Day filming location: Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles
Independence Day location: the First Lady gets a warning to leave the city: Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles

The First Lady, Marilyn Whitmore (Mary McDonnell), also happens to be staying in LA, at Millennium Biltmore Hotel, 506 South Grand Avenue, downtown, where she takes a call warning her to get out of the city in the Hotel's Rendezvous Court (the grand space which used to be the lobby), and departs from the Helipad on its roof.

The Biltmore is famous on screen from dozens of productions, including Beverly Hills Cop, The Sting, Ghostbusters, In The Line Of Fire, New York, New York, Splash, Species and Daredevil.

The skyscraper on which the daffy new-agers gather to welcome the aliens, and which is the first target to get zapped, is the roof of the First Interstate World Center, now the US Bank Tower, 633 West 5th Street at Grand Avenue, downtown LA, currently the West Coast’s tallest building.

A scale model of the tower, along with miniatures of the Empire State Building and the White House, were built only to be destroyed in the old Hughes Airport at Playa Vista.

There's more LA – the 'Santa Monica Freeway' overpass, beneath which a horrified crowd watches the destruction of the city is actually part of the 1931 Beaux Arts 4th Street Bridge, crossing South Santa Fe Avenue in what is now designated the Arts District, the once-industrial area east of Downtown Los Angeles.

Jasmine and her son Dylan (and of course, the dog) narrowly avoid a deadly fireball by diving through a maintenance door while trapped in a traffic jam in LA’s Second Street Tunnel, which between Hill Street and Figueroa Street, Downtown.

The ruined streets of 'LA' are remnants of the demolished Kaiser Steel Plant at Fontana, on the outskirts of San Bernardino, Route 10 east of Los Angeles, which had previously provided the scenes of urban destruction for Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Away from the city, the trailer park, where burned-out pilot Russell Casse (Randy Quaid) lives with his family and finally finds redemption, is Rachel, in Lincoln County, Nevada.

The closest town to the Nellis Air Force Range – and therefore Area 51 – Rachel is a favourite centre for UFO chasers and the producers of Independence Day cannily presented the town with a time capsule to be opened in the year 2050. It was naturally installed near the Little A'Le'Inn, 9631 Old Mill Street.

Capt Hiller reports for duty to 'El Toro' airforce base, which is is the abandoned Wendover Airfield, 345 South Airport Apron, Wendover, off I-80, Utah, at the Nevada border. This is where the atom bomb-carrying Enola Gay was based toward the end of WWII, and since closure has also been used in Con Air, Hulk, The Core and Mulholland Falls.

After bringing down an alien craft, Hiller drags the unconscious creature across the white expanse of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, famous as the site of rocket-powered land vehicles setting all kinds of speed records.

Covering over 30,000 acres, the Salt Flats were formed when the ancient Lake Bonneville receded and evaporation left large concentrations of dissolved minerals deposited in surrounding soils. North of Wendover Airfield, there’s a 3.5 mile access road north from I-80. Take care if you're visiting – these outer edges can become hazardous brown mud flats. Once on the salt flats themselves, you’re very much on your own – remember there are no facilities or signs.

You can see the featureless expanses again on screen in Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End.