The Real Overlook Hotel

This web page describes my search for Kubrick's Overlook Hotel, 
as it appears in the motion picture The Shining. 

by Bryant Arnett
updated October 24th, 2009

This is a collection of information I found while researching my sequel to Stanley Kubrick's film. Many thanks to Gordon Stainforth (who served as music editor on the film), for his inspiring contributions to this site.  I collected them from some interesting discussion threads at Murray Kraft's retired Shining Forum. Thanks go out also to the people who helped and who contributed information at the alt.movies.kubrick newsgroup.  If you have any additional info, please don't hesitate to let me know.This page contains external links, so don't get lost.

Chapter 1:  The Drive to the Overlook

The opening title sequence of the film was primarily photographed over Glacier National Park in the state of Montana. The lake is called Saint Mary Lake and the highway is known as the Going to the Sun Road.  The fantastic aerial footage was shot by Greg MacGillivray of MacGillivray Freeman Films.  He returned to this location with an Imax camera and recreated some of the same shots for the spectacular giant screen film Flyers.  Unfortunately, the film is out of distribution at this time.  It's interesting to note that some of the footage from the original shoot was used for the ending of the movie Blade Runner. I drove this road several years ago, but I didn't know it was the road at the time.  

Chapter 2:  Arrival at the Hotel

(Click for a larger view)

overlook1.jpg (47910 bytes)overlook2.jpg (59286 bytes)overlook3.jpg (64154 bytes)

The Establishing Shot is the director's way of saying "You Are Here."  For this purpose, Kubrick selected the Timberline Lodge on the edge of majestic Mt. Hood in the state of Oregon.  None of the interiors of the movie were filmed here, only the outdoor establishing shots.  The interior of the Timberline doesn't appear to have inspired any settings from the movie, with the possible exception of the strong American Indian influence. Here is a link to a slide set of Timberline Lodge artwork. Unlike the Overlook, the Timberline does not shut down in winter, and it DOES offer skiing.

Chapter 3:  The Tour

As you make your way through the hotel, keep in mind that everything you see was created entirely on the soundstages and backlot of Elstree Studios, London, England.  The Overlook Hotel consisted of 6 main sets:  The Colorado Lounge, the Lobby, the Gold Ballroom, the Kitchen, the West Wing, and the exterior. In addition, there were many other locations that were created for various scenes.  Let's begin our tour here in the Lounge...

-     The Colorado Lounge      -

Click here for Map

This incredible set served as the setting for some of Jack's most memorable moments.  It consisted of a large main room with a cozy fireplace lounge at one end and a small elevator lobby at the other.  There was also a long utility hallway that ran the length of the main room.  Three staircases and a set of elevators lead to a second story containing a maze of hallways and the exterior of room 237. 

This set, the main location in the movie, was modeled very closely after the Lounge at the Awhanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park in California. 

Here is a comparison of the Overlook and the Awhanee:

The Ahwanee Hotel, Yosemite

The views are from opposing corners, but you can see the basic shape is the same, and some elements are nearly identical. Here is an article that shows some more photos from the Awahanee.  Notice that the elevators, fireplace, chandeliers, and windows in the film are nearly perfect duplicates of the real thing.

Gordon Stainforth... It was an exception in its sheer size, and it included those extraordinary giant windows which were backlit to look exactly like daylight. Another cinematic tour de force I think is the scene where Danny says ‘Can I go to my room to collect my fire engine?’ and Wendy is watching TV, and its snowing ‘outside’. (This scene was cut out of the video version) All done indoors and totally convincing. The lighting generated vast amounts of heat and towards the end of the production the whole stage caught fire. Fortunately all the scenes had just been shot. The stage was immediately rebuilt, with a higher roof, for the next production, which was Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. So the very stage which had been used for the Colorado Lounge became the snake-filled tomb in Raiders.

-     The Lobby      -

Click here for Map

The Lobby was also modeled after the Awhanee Hotel.  I was happy to find the above Awahnee Lobby photo at the wonderful Yosemite Fun website (there are some other nice pictures there, as well). The Lobby set may at first seem to be less impressive than the Colorado Lounge set, but in fact it is huge, surrounded by an ingenious maze of hallways designed to disorient the viewer and provide an impression of immense complexity. There is one funny thing about this set... Ullman's office is surrounded on all sides by interior rooms or hallways, so how can it have a window!?...

Two of the edges of the Lobby set serve as service/utility hallways, but these areas may have actually been part of the backstage area of the soundstage. There is a scene in The Making of the Shining where Jack walks onto the set and it is difficult to tell where the backstage ends and the Lobby set begins. 


-     The Kitchen      -

Click here for Map

The Kitchen was not really a set at all. When I asked Gordon about the boiler room (which only appears in a single shot of the film), he replied...

Gordon Stainforth...
This was shot in a warehouse at the back of Elstree Studios, the very same place that we had the main cutting room - which Stanley had deliberately set up completely separate from the normal cutting rooms at the studios. A bit of it was also cleverly used as part of the Overlook kitchen and storeroom as well. (Although the corridor where Danny runs and hides in the cupboard was done on the side of one of the sound stages.) The Overlook Hotel, indoors and out, was in fact shot in about a dozen completely separate locations within the whole studio complex. Although we called that particular (very anonymous!) warehouse the Cutting Room block, most of the picture cutting was in fact done at Stanley's home near St Albans. He moved the whole operation there in about September 1979, and for many months I never went near the studios. But, about the beginning of April 1980, we moved back to the studios for the dubbing, and it was in this very block that I did all the music editing for the film.

The layout of the Kitchen changes slightly during the course of the film. When Jack shuffles through the kitchen with axe in hand late in the film, he passes directly through an area which was earlier blocked by a shelf unit. Also, there is a funny example of editing sleight of-hand as Wendy and Dick Hallorann take their tour of the kitchen. As Dick shows her the walk-in freezer, they enter a door on one side of a hallway, then when they walk out they are seen exiting a door on the opposite side of the hall. It's not obvious because the camera direction changes.

-     The Gold Room      -

Click here for map

Like the kitchen, the Gold Room Ballroom was not built on a sound stage. It was, according to Gordon, "...done in a big storage shed, not sound proof at all, and all the sound apart from the dialogue was created in the dubbing."

The Ballroom is where Jack spends his time drinking with Lloyd the bartender. It's also the site of the infamous red bathroom where Jack meets a waiter named Grady. I suspect that the bathroom was built as a separate unit on a soundstage. 

LoBrutto's biography of Kubrick tells us that the red bathroom was "...based on a men's room in a Arizona hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright." I discovered that the only Wright designed hotel in the U.S. was the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. I discovered another interesting thing about the Biltmore from their website, they have a ballroom called the Gold Room.  

In September of 2003, my brother-in-law and I found ourselves in Phoenix and decided to check it out. We came to the conclusion that the bathroom where Grady talks to Jack isn't in this hotel. However, it is one of the most visually stunning architectural works I have seen. The bathroom could easily be hidden in some section closed to the general public. 

-     The West Wing      -

The set of the West Wing includes the Caretaker's apartment, a tall staircase, and another maze of hallways.  I don't know anything at all about this set, but there is another funny thing regarding the placement of windows....  In the shot above on the right, you can see the window straight ahead in the bathroom.  There are also windows along the wall to the right side of the picture. This would mean that the apartment was built on the corner of the building. Later we see that it is, in fact, not. I know, I'm crazy.  But I had to put something of interest in this section!

-      The Outside     -


Gordon Stainforth... I think Wendy running through the snow to check out the snowcat is one of the great shots in the film in that it was all artificially created on the back lot at Elstree. The falling snow being polystyrene chips, the snow on the ground being salt, the fog being oil vapour belched out of fog machines and the exterior of the hotel being a gigantic facade on one side of the back lot. Just beyond the artificially planted pine trees to the right of the hotel is a whole housing estate (trees planted to hide it). If you could see where this was shot now, you simply would not believe it. This single shot of about 20 seconds took two or three DAYS to shoot, in grim conditions in about Feb 1979. The irony being that it had snowed anyway, and the salt on the ground melted the real snow! On the first day the wind was in the wrong direction and the whole of Borehamwood high street was covered with these polystyrene chips!...   The maze was shot in three separate places: the exterior was on the back lot at Elstree, the interior summer maze was made (from real hedges) at nearby Radlett Aerodrome, and the interior winter maze was shot indoors on one of the sound stages. All the snow on the ground again being salt. Again, very difficult, cramped conditions with the smoke machines going the whole time, and the set itself being very cold.

Chapter 4: Beyond the Overlook

There were several other locations created at Elstree Studios:  the Boulder apartment, Hallorran's Florida condo, room 237 and its bathroom, the inside and outside of Durkin's garage, and the car and snowcat interiors were all done on sets or on the backlot at Elstree.  It appears that the only real location shooting was done for the scene where Hallorran talks on the phone at the airport.  According to Gordon, "This was shot at Stansted Airport, just north of London (as it was in 1979, probably unrecognisable today)."

Images found here are the property of the producers of the film The Shining.  Please treat them with respect and do not attempt to sell them or use them for any commercial purpose.  This page is for your enjoyment and edification, and I offer it freely to the world as a tribute to the great filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.  
This page was written and is copyright ©1999- 2009 by Bryant Arnett.      Last update: October 24th, 2009.


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