Prague has long been a destination for film production, offering incentives, cost-effective infrastructure and attractive locations. Spider-Man: Far From Home is one of the most expensive and high-profile international films to shoot extensively in Prague since 2004’s Hellboy or 2006’s Casino Royale.
The film had its Czech premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, and is now in wide release.
Unlike many films shot here, Prague locations were used to depict Prague as itself, rather than some other city like Moscow or Vienna. Mission Impossible (1996) used Prague as Prague, while Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) had scenes shot in Prague but doubling for other cities.
Prague tourism officials are pleased that the film will help promote the city internationally. Spider-Man: Far From Home showcases the city as one of three main locales.
The film also has big action scenes set in Venice and London, plus a few shots in New York, Berlin and other places. For Venice, Prague and London, the script stuck to already popular tourist spots as the plot had Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and his classmates on a summer field trip.
The film is a sequel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the events of Avengers: Endgame. Box office expectations are very high.
Filming in Prague took place in September 2018. Key Prague locations seen in Spider-Man: Far From Home include Charles Bridge in the day and at night, the roof of what seems to be the Rudolfinum with Prague Castle on the horizon, the Carlo IV Hotel, the Vinohrady Theater (divadlo na Vinohradech), the main train station Praha hlavní nádraží, the Prague Castle steps, steps by Nerudova street, and some general shots of the skyline with Malá Strana and Old Town. The is also an industrial zone and a pub, and some shots in traffic.
Most of these locations have made film appearances before. The Vinohrady Theater, for example, was in the 2006 film the Illusionist. Charles Bridge has been in countless films including Mission Impossible (1996), xXx (2002) and Rockstar (2011). Nerudova Street and Praha hlavní nádraží both appeared in Underworld: Blood Wars (2016), among others.
Spider-Man’s main Prague action scene, which supposedly shows a square in Prague, was shot at náměstí Dr. E. Beneše in Liberec, North Bohemia, under tight security. In the film, the square is somewhere between the Prague Castle steps and Vinohrady Theater. The film’s geography, like most fiction films, is a bit muddled.
Shooting this scene in Old Town Square would have been impossible, as it would have required closing one of Prague’s biggest tourist attractions for several days, as well as trying to ban tourists from taking any photos. Also, in September 2018 the Old Town Clock Tower was under renovation, with a scaffold in the way.
Spider-Man: Far From Home, with an estimated budget of $160 million, received incentives from both the Czech Film Fund and the Prague Film Fund.
The makers of Spider-Man: Far From Home originally had planned to go to Budapest, but an active campaign by the city convinced them to come to Prague instead.
This is not the first time the city “stole” a film. The 2015 Chinese production Somewhere Only We Know was originally supposed to shoot in Paris, but changed due to a better offer of incentives. The film was a huge hit in Asia. Tourists from China can often be seen taking photos at one of the statues on the steps of the Rudolfinum, where a crucial scene takes place.
The rivalry with Budapest has worked both ways. The 2008 sequel Hellboy II: The Golden Army was supposed to be shot in Prague, like the 2006 original. But the producers got a better offer and went to the Hungarian capital instead.
The state-run Czech Film Commission, whose mission is to attract audiovisual production to the Czech Republic and to inform filmmakers about the incentives as well as the country’s locations, infrastructure and services, counts Spider-Man as a big success:
“A big production like this filming in the Czech Republic shows that the filmmaking infrastructure and the incentives are well-established and that they function well. It doesn’t really make a difference if the country’s locations and studios are used to depict the Czech Republic or some other real or even imaginary place,” Czech Film Commission head Pavlína Žipková. said. “We want to attract and service all kinds of films, TV series, commercials and all the other formats, too,” she added.
The Czech Film Fund, which supports both foreign and domestic films shot in the Czech Republic, gives back 20 percent of qualified Czech spending plus a 66 percent rebate on withholding tax paid in the Czech Republic by international cast and crew. Local film spending on the Spider-Man: Far From Home shoot was estimated at $11 million
Prague officials put an emphasis on showcasing the city. The city-backed Prague Film Fund gives money only to films that shoot in Prague and show the city as Prague, rather than someplace else. Spider-Man: Far From Home received the highest amount ever from the fund, some CZK 5 million.
“The film industry is a good natural advertisement channel with a large (usually as well a long) impact. So for tourism purposes, why with such beautiful scenery as Prague has, should it be represented as another destination? The Prague Film Fund works to support films that show Prague as Prague, for this reason – promotion and publicity of Prague as a tourism destination,” Petr Slepička, a member of the board of the Prague Film Fund and interim CEO of Prague City Tourism said.
“Tourism doesn’t mean only tourists. So the publicity of the destination should help people to choose Prague as a place for many activities – tourism, study, events, jobs, business, inspiration etc.,” he added.
The Carlo IV hotel is cautiously optimistic that Spider-Man fans will come to stay in the rooms where Peter Parker and his classmates were, and have made some preparations. “Carlo IV, The Dedica Anthology, was really happy to become one of the filming locations for Spider-Man last September, and we are thrilled that the hotel is prominently featured,” hotel director Teresa Mattos said.
“We are not expecting a very increased demand, however we are ready. Over the summer we will be releasing an accommodation package including Spider-Man amenities and a little surprise. Our Inn Ox Bar features Spider-Man themed drinks and the figure of Spider-Man can be seen in our bar and our lobby,” she added.
Visitliberec.eu did not respond to email inquiries about the film’s expected impact for that city.
People who have seen the film may have a question about one line mentioned quickly as Peter Parker and his classmates first arrive at Charles Bridge. One character says that the bridge was once used for executions. That is actually at least partly true. In the Middle Ages, merchants from Old Town Square who used false weights or measuring rods were put in a cage and dunked in the Vltava.
It’s not clear if this was meant to be fatal, though, or if it was more like a medieval version of waterboarding, with the cages brought up just in time. This apparently happened near the Old Town side, by where the Statue of the Lamentation of Christ (Pieta) now stands.
People may also have noticed that in the film Prague gets dark around 7 pm, even though it is supposedly early summer, when there is twilight until around 10 pm or even later. That is just the magic of Hollywood. Filming took place in the fall, when the sun sets earlier. Also for logistical reasons it is easier to close off Charles Bridge and other downtown locations at night. It also made for a more romantic skyline.