MCU: Location Scout – Stark Industries Arc Reactor

by Jovial Jay

Where in the world is the Stark Industries Arc Reactor?

LOCATION: Stark Industries Arc Reactor (Unknown)
SHOW: Iron Man, 2008

One of the problems with working on a project like this, years (or decades) after the release of the films, is that you run into issues of the filming location being wiped from existence. This project is also only as good as the technology surrounding it. If Google Maps hasn’t mapped an area, or been updated for a geographic area, then there is not an easy way to explore that area. The following is a location that I’ve been trying to discover since I decided to make the MCU Location Scout Map a “thing.”

So, where is the Arc Reactor Building? I’ve gone thru several schools of thought on this. The current idea is that it was shot at the now defunct El Toro Marine Base in Southern California. It’s the one place that there is not good aerial imagery or street views of circa 2007-08, when the film was being shot. I believe the location to be part of an airport or military facility due to the hangars visible in the background as well as the fact that there is a high volume of military vehicles in the scene. I have also “looked” around (as best I can) Edwards Air Force Base, where a number of other scenes were filmed, and don’t see anything that could resemble the location described below.

The location is definitely in Southern California. Other than a few shots at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, the entirety of the film was shot in Southern California, from Lone Pine to San Diego, with the majority of footage shot in and around Los Angeles. Being at a defunct air base would certainly allow them to build the huge Arc Reactor set within the building, plus allow them the leeway for the pyrotechnics needed at the end of the film.

Here’s what we know:

  • The first image of this location is the matte painting of Stark Industries from Iron Man. It is conglomeration of several images, and represents Stark Industries as if it exists in Long Beach, CA. In a slightly wider version of the matte painting, Long Beach Harbor is visible at the top of the frame.
  • Let’s examine this matte painting more closely and see what they did to achieve it. The building highlighted in Yellow is located on Discovery Drive in Irvine, CA. This was the main filming location for the Stark Industries scenes, including Tony’s press conference and his arrival in a limo after being returned from Afghanistan.
  • The buildings in Green are taken from somewhere else, but the road is mostly Shoreline Drive in Long Beach, near Queens Way. This is the road that Iron Man and Iron Monger fight on at the end of the film. They break thru the wall of the parking lot (coming off the Arc Reactor) and spill onto the street. Iron Man saves a family in a mini van.
  • Finally, the building in Red, is the one we’re looking at. It is actually a physical building. It was used to film the exteriors and interiors of the Arc Reactor. The section colored in Orange represents things that can be seen in a subsequent shots, but may or may not actually exist where the Arc Reactor does.

Here are some other views of the filming location of the Arc Reactor.

  • The first image represents a view “South,” out of the gate. There is a 3 story building and two hangars visible, which are in the original matte painting. The red highlighted portion of this image is most likely a matte painting adding in the oil refineries. But the building and hangars are also possibly part of the matte painting.

  • The next image is the next shot in this sequence, with shipping containers outside the fence acting as a wall (these containers are visible in a nighttime shot later in the film as well). These are not in the the original matte painting, so the whole background, outside the gate, may be false.

  • The final image is a night shot, looking “North” towards the roadway. The red highlighted portion here is SFx, as the buildings in the background are on the north side of Shoreline Drive in Long Beach, and this location does not exist on the south side of the street.

So, just where is this Stark Industries filming location? Based on the matte paintings it’s in Long Beach. If you use the main Stark HQ as a guideline, it’s in Irvine. Given that the Arc Reactor was built in the building as part of a set, and the military vehicles in the background, it was filmed at a military base like El Toro or even Edwards Air Force Base.

Do you have any knowledge of this location? If so let me know on Twitter @JovialJay!

To see the filming location listed above, and hundreds of others, please click the map icon below.
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Got tips? Got corrections? Let me know on Twitter @JovialJay!

MCU: Location Scout
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Behind every scene in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a location. Some are iconic. Some are functional. Some are completely fantastic. But all of them are there to support the story.

Here at the MCU: Location Scout, Jovial Jay digs deep to uncover the real-world filming locations behind your favorite super hero films. From Iron Man to Inhumans and everything in between!

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