8 of the Best Places to Live if You Love Movies

published Feb 22, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Erwin Widmer/Shutterstock)

Sure, New York has a new film festival every weekend and you’re practically guaranteed to run into a local actor any time step outside. And, of course, there’s the whole city of Los Angeles. But what if you’re a cinephile who doesn’t want to deal with traffic or the MTA?

Thankfully, it’s not just the major cities that host all things silver screen. Surprisingly, smaller cities often play supporting roles in many movies: There are places you can live that offer some serious celebrity sightings, some of the best quirky film festivals, and historic film houses.

So, without further ado: The eight nominees for the best places to live (if you’re a film fanatic.)

Portland, Oregon

(Image credit: Maciej Lulko/Shutterstock)

This über-cool Pacific Northwest town isn’t just the backdrop to IFC’s “Portlandia.” It also plays host every March to the Portland International Film Festival. Now in it’s 42nd year, Portlandians can head to the Northwest Film Center and catch up to 140 films during the festival.

Aside from the NW Film Center, which opened in 1971, the city has many other indie art house theaters, too, like the notable Cinema 21, which opened back in 1925.

But if you like your films a little more niche, there is also the Filmed by Bike festival, which has been riding strong for 17 years. Over the years, the festival has grown and now includes a year-round traveling film program and a juried selection of bike movies.

“This year’s festival includes filmmaker Q&As, a filmmaker bike ride (very Portland), late night parties, and three nights of bike film programs,” says Lisa Hill, one of the festival organizers.

Montclair, New Jersey

This pretty New Jersey town is a favorite of NYC entertainment industry expats. According to Lauren Wilson-Policke, a Montclair local, you might see people like Stephen Colbert and Patrick Wilson around town.

But the township is also a star itself, being featured in a bunch of movies including “Stepmom,” “A Devil’s Own,” “Analyze This,” as well as many a “Sopranos” episodes.

And, of course, there’s the annual Montclair Film Festival each spring.

“The festival brings in some pretty big names each year,” says Wilson-Policke. She notes Meryl Streep attended last year.

Petaluma, California

(Image credit: Geri Lavrov/Getty Images)

This Sonoma Valley town played home to the cast and crews of classics like “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Basic Instinct,” and “American Graffiti.” But the movie magic hasn’t faded for current day locals:

“Every May, a Salute to American Graffiti event takes place in downtown Petaluma,” says Noelle Smith Primavera, who owns a public relations agency and lives in town. “The streets are lined with hundreds of classic American cars, including a few of the cars from the movie itself.”

In addition, locals can check out regular screenings hosted by the Petaluma Film Alliance, as well as new animated and live-action short films during the Film Fest Petaluma each May.

Woodstock, Georgia

Few parts of the country are as attractive to filmmakers as Cherokee County. The long list of things shot in the count includes shows like “Ozark” and movies like “Hidden Figures” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

One local town attracting many movie industry workers? Woodstock, which is just 30 miles north of Atlanta.

“I ended up buying a house in the country in Woodstock because my husband and I work in TV,” Ashley Cantley, a feng shui expert says. “So many people are moving to Woodstock for this exact reason and the general public is super excited about the filming, too.”

But it’s not all work all the time: The town also boasts many outdoor movie screenings during the summers, too.

Related: Study Says People Aren’t Using Real Estate Agents, for Bad Reasons

Seattle, Washington

(Image credit: @ Didier Marti / Getty Images)

Films are as important to this coffee-fueled city as any other industry. Or, so says Brad Wilke, co-founder of Smarthouse Creative, an independent film marketing company in town.

“Outside of New York City or Los Angeles, Seattle is one of the best places to be both a filmmaker and a film lover,” he says.

Besides the most obvious titles like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “Say Anything,” some interesting indies have also been filmed here. Wilke points to some of his favorite locally-filmed movies like “Scorchy,” a 1973 detective flick; “Class of 1999,” a dystopian cult classic; and “Humpday,” Lynn Shelton’s breakout Sundance hit.

In addition, Seattle also has a vibrant filmmaking community. There are non-profits like the Northwest Film Forum and Seattle International Film Festival, as well as independent cinemas like Grand Illusion Cinema, Ark Lodge Cinemas, and Central Cinema.

“And when you add in pop-up and outdoor screenings held in almost every neighborhood throughout the summer, it’s tough to beat Seattle when it comes to film culture,” Wilke says. “It’s in the city’s blood.”

Chicago, Illinois

No doubt, Chicago is a go-to for many filmmakers. The Windy City has set the scene in recent movies like “Widows,” and “Win It All,” as well as classics like “The Dark Knight,” “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” But even non-professional film buffs will get a kick out of visiting on-screen locations from these films (and more!) on a Chicago Film Tour.

Another perk of living here: The Chicago International Film Festival, which has discovered countless directors (Martin Scorsese ring a bell?). Celebrating its 55th season this year, it’s now considered to be one of the longest running international film festivals in North America.

Chi-town also has its fair share of historic theaters, like the Music Box Theatre (built in 1929), the Davis Theater (built in 1916), and the Logan Theatre (built in 1915).

Paducah, Kentucky

(Image credit: Lorraine Boogich/Getty Images)

Turns out, Paducah is a haven for artists—it’s actually a designated UNESCO creative city with a burgeoning grassroots film community. Locals flock to the Maiden Alley Cinema & Gallery, a restored venue that’s home to the Paducah Film Society and its programming.

Each May, the city hosts the Cinema Systers Film Festival, the only all-lesbian film festival in the U.S.

And this summer, filmmakers from all over the Paducah area will compete in the 48 Hour Film Project to see who can make the best short film in a two-day span.

There’s also the recently created The Western Kentucky Film Commission, which aims at bringing more film projects to the region.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(Image credit: travelview/Shutterstock)

If you’re trying to break into the business, you’ll find a lot of work in Baton Rouge: The capital city a mere 80 miles from New Orleans boasts some of the best film incentives in the nation and has attracted recent projects like “Captain Marvel” and “Pitch Perfect 2.” It’s also home to Celtic Studios, Louisiana’s largest studio facility. (No wonder MovieMaker magazine named it the #1 Place to Live and Work as a Moviemaker in 2015.)

Fun fact: Baton Rouge is also home to Composite Effects, the company that makes the masks for “Game of Thrones.” (Halloween is sure to be a treat in this town!)

But if you’re more of a movie watcher than a maker, there are more than enough ways to partake in the town’s culture. The Manship Theatre downtown holds frequent screenings and this summer marks the 20th anniversary of the Baton Rouge Gallery’s popular Movies & Music on the Lawn series.

“Films are projected on a huge inflatable outdoor screen as live musicians perform a never-before-heard score and attendees enjoy complimentary popcorn,” says Rebecca Gehman, a local resident.

Looking for more of a college-town feel? Here, some of the best academic towns to move to (even if you’re not a student).