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About the Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations Travel Section

Mrs Doubtfire location: Steiner Street, San Francisco

The Mrs Doubtfire house on Steiner Street in San Francisco

I’m on a Steiner Street in swanky Pacific Heights, San Francisco, when a car pulls up, half a dozen people pile out and squat, grinning, on the steps in front of a suburban house to have their photograph taken. Apparently satisfied, they pile back in the car and they’re gone. With the steps clear, it’s my turn to take a photo.

So what’s the significance of this apparently unremarkable place?

It’s the family home used in the 1993 film Mrs Doubtfire.

Hello – welcome to the world of movie tourism.

Since movies crept blinking out of the studio and into the daylight, it was claimed they gave us “a window on the world”:  glimpses of places we could never hope to visit.

When David Lean set his romance Summer Madness against the backdrop of Venice back in 1955, he could reasonably assume that few of the audience would ever visit the city. Who’d notice that he cheated and gave Katharine Hepburn’s hotel an array of stunning but geographically impossible views?

The arrival of relatively cheap international air travel, though, changed the game forever. Cinema had become the best travel brochure imaginable. It’s no longer enough to gasp in awe at Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We want to visit. Take photos. Probably buy a souvenir guidebook and a t-shirt, too, if you’re anything like me.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind location: Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Close Encounters’ alien rendezvous site – Devil’s Tower in Wyoming

Photograph: iStockphoto © Joe McDaniel

OK, maybe we’re not driven to make shapes out of mashed potato or rebuild the damn thing in our front rooms like Roy Neary, but we share the same impulse to get on the road and visit.

The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations lists locations by film title, but here in the Travel Section, we’ll be concentrating on specific areas – cities or neighbourhoods. If you’re a tourist looking for a new angle on your destination, then the striking, glamorous, atmospheric or downright oddball places that have appealed to film directors and location scouts are a terrific way to get away from the beaten track.

And even if you’re local, chances are there’ll be a few surprises in store.

Be sure to check back, as we’ll be adding more destinations.