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Going Hollywood: Detroit Revives its Film Roots

A movie studio now occupies an historic truck facility.

by on Feb.23, 2009

Could the Motor City become Tinseltown East?

Could the Motor City become Tinseltown East?

Amidst all the gloom-and-doom news emanating from and about Detroit lately, it was announced that a new Michigan-based movie production company would take over General Motors’ former Centerpoint office complex in Pontiac, a fairly distant northern suburb of the Motor City.

Centerpoint? The old timers know it as “T & C,” a yellow brick office building and factory on South Boulevard just east of Woodward at the southern end of the city. Pontiac Motor Car Division used to anchor the city’s northern edge. T & C stood for Truck and Coach, once known as Yellow Coach, the General Motors division that manufactured GMC buses (“coaches”) and GMC heavy trucks, having introduced modern diesel engines for trucks in 1938.

Michigan, copying some other states, is providing special financial and tax incentives for companies willing to establish movie production facilities in the Wolverine state. Detroit environs have been featured in several films lately, notably Clint Eastwood’s Grand Torino, although the original script was set in Minneapolis.

What few people remember today is that Detroit once was second only to Hollywood in film production. But Detroit movies weren’t feature films for entertainment. Instead they were promotional films for auto companies and training films for auto company and dealer personnel.