The Wizard is a 1989 film starring Fred Savage, Luke Edwards, Jenny Lewis, Beau Bridges, and Christian Slater. The film follows Corey and his brother Jimmy as they flee their unhappy home and head towards Los Angeles so Jimmy can compete in Video Armageddon, a video game tournament.
While the film was not a major blockbuster, it did make a decent profit compared to its budget. The Wizard has since developed a cult following, especially with fans of Nintendo and retro gaming, as it featured the North American debut of Super Mario Bros. 3.
The movie was one of my favourites as a child, and really inspired my love of travel. I had previously visited Universal Studios and the Cabazon Dinosaurs, but in May 2022, I decided to take a trip to Reno and Los Angeles to visit all of the other Wizard locations that I’d identified. I hope fans of the movie will enjoy and appreciate my efforts to document all these locations.
The Opening Scene
As the movie opens, we see Jimmy walking along a stretch of country road. Shortly after, a police officer pulls up and picks up Jimmy to bring him back home. These scenes were filmed on the Sutcliffe Highway near Pyramid Lake.
The Group Home
Once Jimmy is located by the police, he is committed to a group home for children. The house is located in the town of Gardnerville, Nevada. There is a plaque outside the house marking the historical significance, and even mentions the appearance in The Wizard. However please keep in mind the house is a private residence and should only be viewed from the street.
The scene where Sam and Nick park their truck and meet the cop as they enter the group home was shot just west of the house. The fields behind them are now are area known as Heritage Park.
There is also a brief scene of Corey standing with his skateboard (he never actually skates it) on a street corner before going to break Jimmy out of the home. This was filmed at the corner of Highway 395 and Eddy Street.
A funny story about this location… I was standing across the street to take photos, and didn’t realize there was a pedestrian cross-walk. Cars started stopping, and I thought they were being nice and letting me take photos. Only after about 20 seconds I realized it was a cross-walk, and they stopped to let me cross the street. I stepped back and waved them through, but was able to get some great unobstructed photos.
The Woods House
The Woods house in the film is seen a couple times at the start of the film, as well as numerous times in the deleted scenes. I’ve done a lot of research and been unable to locate this home. The general belief is that the house has been demolished. In the deleted scenes we can see a house number 619 showing. If anyone has any info about where this house might be, send me a message here.
The Hazen Market
As Corey and Jimmy escape from the group home in the back of a Hostess/Wonder Bread truck, they get out at the Hazen Market. The building is located on Highway 50 just east of Reno. The building no longer operates as a store, and appears to now be a private residence.
Nearby in Minden, Nevada is where the COD Garage is located. This is where Corey and Jimmy try and buy bus tickets out of Utah, and end up first meeting Jenny. The historic garage has been turned into a Casino in the years since filming.
The interior of the garage has been drastically changed, however the ticket window and some other decor has actually been preserved and is now on display in the back of the casino.
The location of Selma’s Cafe is right across the street from the COD Garage. The building is the old Minden Inn, and it is now a municipal building. The entrance has been extensively renovated, and the diner area is now the lobby. The street outside is where Sam attacks Putnam’s car with a shovel.
The Cow Truck
After the kids leave Selma’s Diner, they are seen in the back of a cow truck. The truckers realize the kids have money, and end up stealing it and the kids are stranded on the side of the road. This scene was filmed on the side of a country road just outside Minden.
The Mechanic Garage
The next scene is the mechanic garage where Sam is getting his pickup truck fixed. This is also where Nick plugs in his Nintendo to play in the office while waiting. This garage is one of the few locations that myself and other fans have not been able to identify. The general belief is that it may be torn down.
There is a brief view of the town of Truckee, California, where the next couple scenes take place. Truckee is just across the state border, and close to Lake Tahoe. The view of Truckee and the hairpin turn off the highway was filmed from East Jibboom Way. However the trees have really grown in since filming, and the view is not really visible any more.
We see a small intersection where the kids get out of the back of a pickup truck. This spot is located at the corner of Truckee Way and Church Street. In the time since filming, the intersection has become a busier roundabout, however some of the houses remain.
Truckee Bar and Grill
The movie then features scenes of the kids entering a bar and grill, where Corey challenges a couple older men to a bet that Jimmy can beat them. These scenes were filmed in what is now called the Bar of America.
Hirschdale Auto Wrecking
The location of Hirschdale Auto Wrecking is where Haley, Corey, and Jimmy spend the night in the back of a truck. This was located at the very end of Hirschdale Road, outside of Truckee. Google Maps still shows this location as an auto-wrecking service, but when I visited in May 2022, there was nothing there.
During The Wizard travel montage, we see a brief clip of the kids walking along a road towards an underpass. This is actually where Hirschdale Road crosses under the I-80.
Lake Tahoe Scenic View
The scenic stop where we see Corey, Jimmy, and Haley during the travel montage is a real overlook along Mount Rose Highway, just outside Incline Village, California.
“Reno or Bust” Cafe
The cafe where we see the kids sitting outside holding a “Reno or Bust” sign is located in the small town of Dayton, Nevada. The building has undergone some renovations since the 80s, and is now the Dayton Taphouse.
The restaurant is located on Main Street, which is also where Putnam crashes his car into Sam’s truck. There are a number of historical buildings in the background, including the old Union and Fox Hotels.
The montage shows us a brief but memorable view of the Spider Car, which is an old VW Bug turned into a spider. This can still be seen along Highway 50, just outside Carson City.
Agua Dulce Airpark and Cafe
The location of the diner by the airport was not filmed in Nevada, but in Santa Clarita, California. It is the Agua Dulce Airpark. The building that housed the diner where the kids first encounter Lucas and his Power Glove is now gone, and a new building stands in its place.
The roadside motel where Sam and Nick spend the night is also located in Santa Clarita. It’s the Sierra Pelona Motel, and is a popular filming location. It has barely changed since The Wizard was filmed here, even the phone booth is still standing next to the office.
Drive-In Movie Theatre
The Drive-In that the kids stop at is located just outside Fallon, Nevada. According to Director Todd Holland (as stated in the director’s commentary), this Drive-In was already abandoned prior to filming. When I visited in 2022, the large screen and all the speakers had been removed as well.
In the movie, we see Jimmy stacking some old popcorn boxes inside a small area in front of the projection room, surrounded by a picket fence. The only part of that area that remains are some wooden posts that held up the fence.
The only remaining part was the building which housed the projection room. This room was featured in the film, and remarkably still looks the same all these years later. One of the giant projectors is still sitting there. Another is lying just outside the building. Even though it wasn’t shown in the movie, you can also see the old snack bar at the back, with yet another projector sitting inside.
Fallon Deleted Scenes
Fallon is also the location of a number of deleted scenes. If you’ve watched the 2-disc special edition from Shout Factory, you’ll know that The Wizard had over an hour of scenes deleted from the final cut, many of which take place before the final cut begins.
One scene features Corey walking down South Maine Street, as we see the Fallon Theatre in the background. He crosses the road and goes into an arcade. Jimmy sees him go in, and follows him. This is the first time Jimmy actually plays a video game, and Corey realizes it seems to come naturally to him.
Another deleted scene features Corey and some friends sitting on bleachers at his school. They eat pizza until Nick drives up onto the football field and chases them. They end up spotting Jimmy walking along the street behind the bleachers, and they go check on him. These scenes were filmed at a local school in Fallon, but the bleachers are no longer there.
The Reno Arch
The most famous attraction in Reno is the Arch, which stretches over North Virginia Street. The archway is seen as the kids first arrive in Reno, and also later when Putnam is trying to track them down.
The Peppermill Casino Resort
The Peppermill Casino was used for numerous scenes during The Wizard, but has been extensively renovated and new additions to the resort have been added.
The scenes in the casino where Haley has Spanky playing craps used the Peppermill’s casino.
The following scene shows Spanky and the kids being thrown out of the front entrance. This was filmed at the real entrance to the casino. The entranceway is now covered by a large canopy, but the doors are still there.
The pool area is where Putnam finds Corey and Haley. It has been extensively renovated, and is unrecognizable compared to the film.
The Wizard shows an arcade as part of the casino. The director’s commentary mentions that this was just set up for filming, and wasn’t an actual arcade. However if you are looking for some video game action in the resort, there is an arcade called Game Lab in the resort.
Haley’s Trailer Home
The exact location for Haley’s trailer could have been anywhere in the Reno area. It wasn’t a real trailer park, but just set up for the film. There is a sign for a boat service company called “BoatWorld” that can be seen, however I believe this is a fake sign set up as part of the set, as the phone number is “555-FLOT”. 555 is commonly used in movies and television so that a real in-use number isn’t accidentally used.
We see a brief scene of Putnam sitting outside a 7-Eleven, using a Slurpee to ice his black eye after getting beaten by Spanky and the truckers.
Universal Studios Hollywood
When Corey, Jimmy, and Jenny finally reach Los Angeles, they head to the Video Game Armageddon event at Universal Studios. Filming took place throughout the studio lot and theme park, as the characters are chased off the studio tram ride and try to escape.
Some of the areas featured include the front entrance and the European backlot. The Wizard also featured some footage filmed in the King Kong ride, which unfortunately was destroyed in a 2008 fire. The building facade used as the entrance to the video game tournament has since been torn down. This area was known as the Square of Warriors, and you can read more about it on TheStudioTour.com.
Throughout The Wizard, Jimmy expresses a desire to return to California. At the end of the film, it turns out his idea of California is the giant dinosaurs at Cabazon. He runs into one of the dinosaurs with his a photo of his entire family, including his sister who passed away.
These dinosaurs are a roadside attraction along the I-10, just west of Palm Springs. You can visit the grounds for free, but there is a charge to go into the dinosaurs.