After filming, movie props can be sold at auction, sent to a warehouse owned by the studio, or housed by the production designer. They may go to a museum, another film set, theme restaurants, private collections, or even the trash. The producer and studio generally decide what happens to the assets.
Movie Prop Rentals discusses the “afterlife” of movie props for aspiring collectors, filmmakers, and the curious.
Everyone has those one or two movies that they connect to, that become part of their identity. Collecting film memorabilia is not only a popular hobby in America, but it’s a cool way to hang onto the nostalgic feeling of the movies you hold dear. For some, a store-bought toy or replica product is good enough to achieve that goal, but others are in pursuit of the real deal – a rare, screen-used, genuine movie prop. The question is – after filming, where do they go? And how do you get your hands on one?
Auctions and Private Collectors
The most iconic “hero” items are safely guarded by the studios in their own facilities. They are either kept and put on display on their premises or auctioned off to private collectors at top dollar. Prop Store is one such auction house, which authenticated and listed the queen’s egg from Aliens for $1,295, Marty McFly’s Nikes (Back II The Future) for $16,195, the Jack Nicholson Joker’s suit for $12,955, Gary Oldman’s contact lenses (Braham Stoker’s Dracula) for $1,296, Conan the Barbarian’s sword for $5,181, Venckman’s jumpsuit (Ghostbusters) for $3,886, Chris Pratt’s “Star Lord” helmet (Guardians of the Galaxy) for $19,437, and Indiana Jones’ bull whip (The Last Crusade) for $32,395.
It’s A Wrap is another popular LA prop auctioneer.
Sometimes you can even find authentic pieces on eBay – like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bust from Total Recall, the saw from the Saw movies, poker chips from Ocean’s Eleven, an oar from The Titanic, Robin Williams’ Hook costume, and Quentin Tarantino’s 1970 Death Proof Chevy Nova.
All major film studios like Sony, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Disney, and more have their own warehouses full of treasure. You’ll find a prop warehouse for any item found on-set, costume department for the clothing the actors wear, and transportation department for the vehicles. For instance, Sony displays the Ecto from Ghostbusters, the Talladega Nights race car, and the Breaking Bad RV. Hollywood studios typically offer guided tours of their backlots, prop warehouses, and studios for a price.
Independent Prop Houses
Sometimes studios use independent prop houses to store their props and set dressings. Disney sent all of the Pirates of the Caribbean props – swords, canons, guns, costumes – to one such prop house. After the film become a blockbuster hit, they had to pay to rent everything they sold for the sequels.
Various museums around the world showcase specific movie props. The Hollywood Museum in Los Angeles holds the largest collection of authentic movie memorabilia with more than 10,000 items, including Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell from The Silence of the Lambs, Rocky’s boxing gloves, costumes from Planet of the Apes, and Marilyn Monroe’s million-dollar honeymoon dress. Other American museums with genuine props include:
- Gone With The Wind Museum in Marietta, Georgia
- Rancho Obi-Wan Star Wars Museum in Petaluma, California
- It’s A Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, New York
- The Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
Overseas, you can see museums dedicated to Mad Max, the Lord of the Rings, and James Bond, all containing real movie props, costumes, vehicles, and collectibles.
Restaurants and Theme Parks
Filmmakers often donate items to restaurant chains or theme-parks. For instance, Planet Hollywood has nearly 55,000 items in its warehouse to spread among its six properties in Orlando, Vegas, New York City, Paris, London, and Malta. Disneyland has found a home for a number of real props – the mine car from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the desert chase vehicle from Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark, C-3PO and R2D2 from the original Star Wars trilogy, and Captain Nemo’s organ from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Cast & Crew
Sometimes cast and crew are allowed to keep a few beloved items, though this does not happen as often as you’d think. For instance, from the “Harry Potter” movie sets, Daniel Radcliffe kept two pairs of his iconic round glasses; Emma Watson took her wand, a time-turner, and a cloak; Alan Rickman took home his wand, Gringotts coins, and probably a cloak; and Rupert Grint took the number four off the Dursleys’ house and Dumbledore’s Deluminator. Grint also tried to take the golden Goblet of Fire dragon egg (which was worth a few thousand dollars), but the studio tracked it down. Jason Isaacs tried to take one of the thousands of copies of The Daily Prophet, though he was caught and asked to return it.
Wondering what happened to all the amazing period costumes from Boardwalk Empire? Costume rental houses got first dibs on the apparel, but some pieces were donated to Material for the Arts, The Children’s Theatre, and the University of Georgia. Filmmaking is a fast-paced world where tremendous amounts of goods are moved at break-neck speed, as productions come and go. When costumes and other items are no longer needed, there are usually opportunities to donate them.
Other Film Sets
Many props find new life in other films. For instance, Uma Thurman’s Japanese Kill Bill sword was also used in Sin City. Sam Raimi likes to re-use the same ’88 Oldsmobile Delta in all his movies – first Evil Dead, and then Drag Me To Hell, The Quick and The Dead, Spider-Man, Darkman, A Simple Plan, The Gift, and Crimewave. The same police spinner was used in Back To The Future II and Blade Runner. Gwyneth Paltrow’s severed head from Se7en was borrowed for Contagion. The body armor for Starship Troopers was re-used in the Firefly TV series and Planet of the Apes movies.
Amazingly, some items end up in the trash. When Sean Astin moved out at 18, his mom threw out a map from Goonies, “worth about $100,000,” he says. The Emerald City backdrop from Wizard of Oz was destined for the trash, but the cleaning crew salvaged the item and later sold it for $44,000. To make quick room for the filming of Cabaret, thousands of Willy Wonka “Scrumdiddlyumptious” bars were tossed into the trash. The leg lamps from A Christmas Story, stop-animation models from King Kong, and the original Star Wars death star were all thrown out to make room for new gear – though the death star was immediately recognized and snapped up by a savvy antique store owner.
Looking For Movie Props?
Movie Prop Rentals is an independent prop house that assists Hollywood, indie filmmakers, theatres, music video producers, corporate event planners, as well as wedding and party planning agencies. Movie Prop Rentals is run by production designers who worked on films like Last of the Mohicans, Bad Boys, Step Up Revolution, Jeepers Creepers, and Into the Blue. For decades, we have been collecting high-quality film props used on screen. Our clients can choose from carefully curated items out of two warehouses in Atlanta, Georgia, and Miami, Florida. Contact us for details.