Bay of Quinte Tourism

The History of Hollywood North

Over 1,500 silent films were produced in Trenton, during the days of Hollywood North. Today, the area’s film history is being revived.

Hollywood North Film Festival brandingJuly 15th to 17th marks the second year of the Hollywood North Film Festival in the Quinte Region. The international festival will feature thirty-three films from Canada, United States, Australia, Germany, France, Italy and India. The films range from full length movies, featured shorts and animations, playing over three days at The Empire Theatre and Pinnacle Playhouse in Belleville, Centre Theatre in Trenton and the Regent Theatre in Picton.

Sandbanks has featured in many films produced in Hollywood North
Sandbanks Provincial Park provides a natural backdrop in multiple films. Have you spotted the dunes on screen?

The festival’s name comes from Trenton: designated as the original Hollywood North in the early years of the film industry, from 1917 to 1934 over 1,500 silent films were produced in a large movie studio located on Film StreetLocations like Camp Picton, CFB Trenton and Sandbanks Provincial Park were used in films, attracting some of the biggest names in the industry at the time, like Tyrone Power, Holbrook Blinn, Dorothy Bernard, Jimmy Savo and Hugh Buckler.

With the introduction of “talkies” the local studio could not compe
te with the new sound studios and was eventually closed. The building for the film studio is still on Film Street in Trenton, currently occupied by Parker Bros. Textile Mills Ltd. Many of the features from the studio, including the dressing rooms are still in place.

So… What was filmed in Hollywood North?

The film industry in the Quinte area was revived during WWII when a blockbuster Hollywood film came to the area in 1942.

Image via airmuseum.ca
Image via airmuseum.ca

Captains of the Clouds was filmed at several locations, showcasing the Royal Canadian Air Force participation in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. The movie starred James Cagney, and had a cameo by renowned Canadian WWI Ace, Billy Bishop.  The movie was nominated for two Oscars.

 

As television entered the film industry, several movies for big and small screens have been filmed in the Bay of Quinte:

  • Dieppe (1993), at Picton, starring Victor Garber
  • Fly Away Home (1996), at Sandbanks in Prince Edward County, starring Jeff Daniels
  • The Arrow (1997), at Picton, starring Dan Aykroyd, Sara Botsford
  • Haven (2001), at Picton, starring Natasha Richardson
  • Touching Wild Horses (2002), Sandbanks Provincial Park, starring Jane Seymour
  • Wilby Wonderful (2004), at Picton, starring Ellen Page, Paul Gross
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008), at CFB Trenton, Trenton, Belleville,  starring Liv Tyler, Edward Norton
  • Plantation (2009), at Stirling, starring Neil Whitely
  • Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010), at Sandbanks Provincial Park, starring Milla Jovovich
  • The Thing (2011), at CFB Trenton, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton
  • Camp X (2014), Camp Picton, starring Michael Allcock

Currently there are two movies scheduled to film this summer in the Quinte region: Goliath will be filming in Trenton, Belleville and Frankford.  The Epidemic, starring Eric Roberts and Chris Owen, may be shooting scenes in Trenton and Belleville.

A number of well-known TV series have filmed episodes in the Quinte Region, taking advantage of the natural scenery, rich architecture, history and culture.

  • The Littlest Hobo –Trenton
  • Road to Avonlea – Montrose Inn, Quinte West
  • Opening Soon – Milford Bistro, Milford
  • Bomber Boys – Camp Picton
  • The Sea Hunters – Point Petre
  • Canada’s Worst Driver – Picton, Camp Picton
  • The Wilkinsons – Carrying Place, Trenton, Belleville
  • Murdoch Mysteries – Glanmore House, Belleville
  • Brotherhood of Leet – National Air Force Museum, CFB Trenton
  • Chef’s Domain – Prince Edward County
  • You Got to Eat Here – Burger Revolution, Belleville
  • You Gotta Eat Here – Williams Family Diner, Picton
  • Love It or List it – Prince Edward County

Some film and TV critics will argue that quality cannot be produced in Hollywood North.  The proof of the quality of the film and television industry in choosing the Bay of Quinte region is in the awards received by the many movies, TV episodes, documentaries and short films that have used the area.  Collectively they have earned:

  • Oscars – 6 nominations
  • Emmys – 4 wins/13 nominations
  • Golden Globes – 1 win/1 nomination
  • Geminis – 31 wins/90 nominations
  • Genies – 1 win/9 nominations

This list does not include the multitude of other awards, including one Scream award.  Work produced in the Quinte Area has appeared at international film festivals around the world, including Cannes.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, many residents of the area were employed in the industry as actors, extras and technicians, behind the scenes. This tradition has continued into the present, with many jobs brought to the region with each new project. The work of acting has included several mayors performing character roles and recently local radio personality, Tim Durkin, news anchor for CJBQ, Rock 107 and Mix 97, appearing as himself in the documentary, The Last Stanza: Belleville Bulls (2016).

The Movie Years Today is about Trenton's Hollywood NorthAnyone wanting to discover more on the Quinte Regions film heritage, can pick up an excellent book, The Movie Years, Trenton, Ontario 1917-1934 written by local author, Peggy Dymond Leavey.  Copies are available at Lighthouse Books in Brighton and the Trent Port Museum in Trenton.

When you are in the Bay of Quinte region, take a look around: you might see a production set, bump into a famous actor or you might recognize the location of a scene from a favourite movie or TV series.  After all, Quinte is the original Hollywood North!

Roger Litwiller is an author/historian/lecturer of local history and Canada’s proud Naval heritage. He enjoys exploration through travel & photography.  Roger has worked as a Paramedic for 33 yrs in Hastings County. “I am a storyteller, who can save your life!” You can find more of Roger’s books and writing on his website, rogerlitwiller.com, or send him a tweet at @RLitwiller

  • RMMG

    Great article, very informative, thanks 🙂
    Trenton is indeed *the* original ‘Hollywood North’!!

  • Love this post! I was born in Trenton and my father was the Mayor of Trenton for many years. Very interesting.

  • disqus_Sy0YB7WW19

    Born and raised in Trenton. Great article. Glad to finally read an informative article on our film history. Overall, well written. Just hope more people learn about our film history

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