From our August 2018 Magazine Issue:
Sitting at the counter at George’s 50s Diner on Atlantic Avenue one day, 908 resident Sylvia Chandler ate her lunch while a film crew worked around her preparing to film a Hyundai car commercial.
“They were really nice and offered to pay for my meal,” Chandler said.
Chandler is just one of many loyal customers at George’s 50s Diner, a Long Beach historical icon, owned by George Alvarez and his wife Helen. While the diner is known to many as a spot to eat, it is also known to be a popular Long Beach filming location.
“There’s been a lot of movies filmed here because it’s such an iconic place—you don’t find many diners like this anymore,” said Merret Dorsey, a customer enjoying lunch one afternoon with her husband Chris and her niece visiting from Colorado.
The fame of George’s 50s Diner has indeed spread to Hollywood thanks to movies like the 2004 teen romance movie starring Hilary Duff, “A Cinderella Story.”
“I met George in 2003; we scouted some diners all over town and we liked George’s because it was a classic ‘50s diner vibe and we also had a car stunt to do on Atlantic Avenue, so it was a perfect marriage between the diner and the way the intersection looked in front of the diner,” said Patrick Mignano, location manager for “A Cinderella Story.”
In the movie, Duff’s character works at the diner that is owned by her evil stepmother, Fiona (Jennifer Coolidge.) Fiona is seen racing down Atlantic Avenue to get to the diner on time in one scene. Alvarez remembers that production was there for five days shooting at the restaurant.
“I never met any of the actors, however, because I had to come to the diner at five in the morning to open the restaurant for the crew,” Alvarez said. “I was so exhausted, I had to take a nap and missed all the filming!”
When the diner was known as Terry’s Coffee Shop, the film “Corina, Corina,” starring Whoopi Goldberg, was also filmed there. In 2007, George’s Diner was featured in the movie “Zodiac” in the scene where Mike Mageau and his girlfriend are looking for a place to eat. They drive by the diner but decide that it is too crowded. Soon after, they are attacked by the Zodiac Killer.
Unfortunately, a fire attacked George’s 50s Diner in December 2016 and the restaurant had to close for 18 months to remodel the interior. Mignano lives in Lakewood when he’s not working on location for films and remembers driving by George’s to see the place where he had brought “A Cinderella Story” to film, but it was closed.
“I didn’t know why it had closed up until recently,” Mignano said.
Much of the old movie memorabilia and wall decorations were destroyed in the fire, but five weeks ago George’s reopened, much to the delight of the local community, and George, himself.