ScenePast: See famous movie locations then and now


The spot where Steve McQueen began his car chase in San Francisco in Bullitt, the little town firehouse and police department in Easy Rider, the street in Phoenix at the beginning of Psycho. Have you ever wondered what those iconic film locations look like today? That's the premise behind ScenePast: Movie & TV Time Travel (US$1.99, iPhone only).

The app currently shows over 700 spots from movies and TV shows, and the developer notes that new locations are added as time goes by. At this point you're only able to find locations in places like Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco, with the occasional oddity like Las Vegas (both New Mexico and Nevada) thrown in for good measure.

The "time-machine" interface of ScenePast lets you select images by years, locations closest to your zip code, or in those locales listed above. Either tap a "Random" button to zip to a random scene location, or tap a "handle" to get more specific results based on your search criteria.

Once you're transported to a site, you have a complete address for the location and a pair of buttons that let you toggle between the past and today. The year of the original movie or TV episode, the title, the episode name (if applicable), and where the scene in question falls during the show are all listed.

If seeing the past and present images gives you a hankering to watch reruns of The Incredible Hulk from 1979, the app provides links to purchase movies and TV seasons on Blu-Ray or DVD, and there's a button that will also zip you to the appropriate stores to purchase streamable content.

While the 700+ locations and associated images are fascinating, I think it will be a much more compelling app when it has literally thousands of locations from around the world. I'm not sure exactly why the app has a field to enter a zip code when it does use Location Services to pinpoint the nearest locations, and the entire UI of the app looks dated, with buttons that look like they'd have been more appropriate in an app written for a Palm IIIc in 2000.

Couple the odd UI with the fact that you need to tap on "More Details" in order to bring up an image that can be expanded to almost full-screen, and for the most part you're looking at tiny buttons and print as well as small image. I think to be truly useful -- since most users are probably using the app at home instead of on the road -- ScenePast should be an iPad app so the details of the photos can be appreciated. If you're interested in finding nearby film locations, the free Location Scout iPhone app is probably much more handy.

Still, I found ScenePast to be a lot of fun, if just for the novelty of noting that a lot of the locations used in the Chicago filming of Wayne's World haven't changed that much over the years. One final note: you can help the ScenePast development team by clicking on the Help Solve button in the app. That takes you to images from movies or TV shows that they're trying to identify the location of.