CENTRALIA, Pennsylvania’s Lost Town – the new feature documentary on the borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania – will be released May 5, 2017. In anticipation of the film, an official trailer has been posted on Vimeo and can also be found at the top of this page. Joe Sapienza, a native of Philadelphia and camera assistant and assistant producer with NFL Films, is executive producer and director along with producer Allyson Kircher, an assistant at CESD Talent in New York who oversaw its lengthy progress.
Over a four-year period, they successfully completed a documentary that will tell Centralia’s fate through the perspective of Centralia’s former and current residents, the government’s own actions, and local news archives. Joe screened a private rough cut of the documentary twice in the fall of 2016 to former cast, crew, and residents of Centralia and Byrnesville. It received positive reviews with only minor cuts that will be removed from the film and with the addition of an extended introduction including author David DeKok and former resident Tom Dempsey before the opening credits roll.
The documentary will go through the final stages of post-production with Melina Smith, one of the camera operators on the film and colorist at Company 3 in New York. She will color the entire feature giving the film its final beauty. Corey Branigan who works for a production company that specializes in motion graphics – Konrad & Paul in New York – will apply motion effects to the vintage photos, the animations of the mines and tunnels that run beneath Centralia, and the street sign markers that tell the viewer exactly where a scene was shot.
Dominic Zappalla, a commercial freelance audio engineer in Philadelphia, will mix the entire feature with a music score and sound effects that were left out and not heard at the screenings. The music is essential and will add a complement to the narrative, correlating with the drama that unfolds during each scene. The music tracks were scored by John Avarese, a feature film composer and audio professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The opening title segment features a rare acoustic version of, “Ain’t It The Life?” by singer songwriter Erik Peterson of Mischief Brew. Erik and his wife Denise hold a special place in their hearts for Centralia and reached out to Joe last spring. Joe asked Erik to record an acoustic version of “Ain’t It The Life?” and loved it so much that he put it in the opening track of the film. Sadly, Erik Peterson passed away in July of 2016 and Joe has dedicated the film in his honor along with another close friend who introduced him to Centralia back in 2005, Sue “Suzie Q” Berkheimer, a resident of New Columbia, Pennsylvania.
After the film’s release in May, it will be screened at local theaters throughout Pennsylvania including Pottsville, Tamaqua, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Williamsport, Blue Bell, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia, among others. Check local theater listings for release dates in Pennsylvania. The documentary will also be submitted to over a thousand film festivals worldwide through 2017 and 2018. In addition, Joe is considering distributors such as Amazon Video Direct and Netflix in 2018 for final distribution release.
Good stuff, Joe. Looking forward to the whole story. Congrats on this grand achievement!
Can’t wait to see the Movie you’ve worked your butt off along with the crew !!! Congrats to you & crew !!!
Would love to see the whole story! What a tragedy for the people that called it home.
I have infrared images of the area that might have been good for this.
Love it, was part of production on a story about Centralia for Spectrum magazine years ago. However, Centralia is a borough not a town! I’m a native of Bloomsburg.. the only true town in Pa.
I have a friend who knows NB nothing about Centralia ?. I was wondering if people are still able to “tour” through there? I can’t wait to see your movie. Hope to hear back from someone. Thanks
Hi Adrianne. Yes, you can visit Centralia, PA! Just be respectful of the homes/property of those still living there. Otherwise enjoy your visit! Here is a quick article with a map/directions: http://www.centraliapa.org/visiting-centralia-pa-map-directions/
Well done! Having drive through Centralia many times throughout my life to visit my parents in PA I long thought would be a fascinating documentary subject. Can’t wait to watch it. Congratulations to you and your crew! ??✌?️
Joe & Allyson:
I also made a 16mm film in 1982 as part of my studies at Temple University. I have the original and was planning on selling off the A & B rolls on eBay. Great moving images of the town back then. Call me 484-678-1650 and we can discuss further possibilities for you.
So glad your making a movie about Cennntralia. Ive been through there and some places are spooky and some are barren. Its hard to believe there are still people living there but there is Theres smoke coming up thro cracks which is scary when driving thro there. I would love to see a movie about this ghost town!
I heard Ashland may be next. 😮
I sure hope not! Ashland is a wonderful place to visit. 😮
fire not traveling to Ashland headed the other way to mount carmel
The State was trying to convince those in Ashland that the fire was going to burn into town, but the old miners new that the fire would hit the water table before it would get near Ashland. These were men who worked the mines and had maps, so they stood up to the State, so they could not do the same to Ashland as they did to Cennntralia.
Here’s a video my buddies and I did back in ’08:
Should be showing it in Shampkin also. I spent so much time there in the early 50s and 60s. Still remember the glowing coal fires when we passed through in the night .
Cant wait to see this…just being over there brings tears to your eyes..
I’m a singer/songwriter from Lansdowne Pa . but since I had family up near Centralia, I visited it a few times ( and actually got sick from the fumes once ). A few years back I composed a folk song called CENTRALIA. If you’d like to hear, I’d be glad to e-mail it your way if you send me an address.
take care, Tony G
ps. If you care to hear the BALLAD OF CENTRALIA, just leave your e-mail address on my phone answering machine at 610-626-0014 and I’ll e-mail it to you. Tony G.
Hi Tony. Thanks for offering your song! According to Joe, they’ve already set the music for the film and don’t have room to add any more.
Take care and thanks again for all your support!
How do I get in touch, my family is from Centralia and I have photo of my grandfathers general store and the house etc from during the war, My Grandmother passed away in 1973 and I was there many times as a child
Intrigued by the film Made In USA. I travel through Pennsylvania often. I’m going to make a point to visit.
Looking forward to the entire movie, from the looks of the trailer I’d say you’ve got a great piece of work to show.
I remember Centrailia well. Traveled through often in my youth and early twenties. Had family in Bloomsburg and we always used route 61 out of Reading, Pottsville, Ashland, Centrailia, Numidia, Catawissia, Rupert. Those were the days. Hope your film with be on the internet too as I now live in Denison, Texas.
Everyone is to stay off old Rt. 61 stretch. The PA State Police are now issuing fines to anyone trespassing and they are stepping up enforcement on it. I talked a local state trooper in my area and he claimed there have been several subsidence’s around the area of the old highway. In other words, certain areas on the ground that were weakened are now starting to show.
Is the a way that I can speak to the maker of the Documentary I just found out the my Biological relatives and Thomas Jennings , James Jennings , and many others are from this town and I would like to learn more about them and see if anyone knew the family
I lived in Centralia until I went off to college in 1973. I am 62 now. My memories are fading, but they are grand memories. It was a town where everyone knew your name. You got quite a big bag of penny candy for 25 cents at Yarworths. Their 5 cent coke was huge.You could buy a loaf of bread, a pound of lunch meat and cheese, quart of milk, tastycakes and can of soup for $5 at Emily’s grocery store. I was 7 years old when I was a brownie attending a troup meeting at the St Ignatius school when I was warned never to enter a stranger’s car after Jane was murdered. I will never forget my mother’s face when she came out of Jane’s house after attending the viewing. You knew the name of your neighbor’s dog and would call them if they got out of their yard. You did not threaten to sue if the dog was on your property. If you got bit by a neighbor’s dog , your parents yelled at you for teasing the dog. You did not sue for getting bit. A neighbor’s dog, Rusty, had a habit of sleeping in the middle of Troutwine St. Then you simply drove around Rusty so you wouldn’t wake him. These are the memories and moments that no documentary can capture. And the graffiti on 61 gives such a disservice to……Memories are all that are left when you can’t go home again.
There was a time capsule that was suppose to be opened in 2016…any info please
I was wondering the same thing Stacy!!
I’m not sure if this is the same time capsule you’re referring to, but one was opened up at the Legion or VFW (can’t remember which) on the road up past the Orthodox church that is still standing on the hillside overlooking Centralia. I happened to be in the area that day and arrived just after they had opened it. Most of the contents were ruined by water but they salvaged a few things, which were put on display in the Legion. PS, my novel, The Zorki Chronicles, has several chapters that take place in Centralia.
Nice trailer, but the background song is loud, making it quite irritating and too distracting to understand the last part of the trailer. I look forward to the movie. I hope the movie story isn’t overridden by the same.
Since 2006, when I was asked by the state to write a plan to extinguish he Centralia fire, it has grown 45% larger (square footage). The estimate we concluded then, was 60 million dollars and three years to suppress. Now with the continued spread of the fire, of course, it will take even more state dollars to deal with this problem. We have extinguished every fire we have been contracted to extinguish and there is no doubt this can be extinguished. However every year that goes by is just more and more money wasted.
With that said the fire seems to have moved west and is harder to find steam and smoke coming from the ground!!
As an Community Health Nurse for Pa. Dept. of Health, I participated in a health study which compared the health of Centralia residents with Marion Height’s residents. We took blood samples, interviewed residents, etc.. It was fascinating. I would live to see those results now, since that was done in 1980’s???
I worked on the study, it was mid 80’s, I mostly did the data analysis for a portion of the study. The professor was Dr. Siegfried Streufert, he was at Penn State Hershey. I believe either the State Department of Health, environmental division or Penn State should have a copy of the final results. I had an interim results copy but it was lost in one of my moves. From what I remember the results showed worse health for Centralia residents vs Marion Heights but the interesting thing was those who didn’t have the fire currently under their homes but anticipated it faired worse health wise. I believe their urine samples showed elevated catecholamines among other things.
Lived in Ashland for several years as pastor of the Episcopal Church. Knew folks from
Centralia who attended the church. Drove to and thru Centralia many times going to
visit parish members and on other errands in Mt Carmel or to the north. Some very good memories of people from that area. R H Lewis
I am a native of Centralia, lived 2 blocks from where the fire started. Went to St. Ignatius School and was married there in 1970. I live now in Arizona and remember when it started. My dad was 1 of the first 13 families that were evacuated. Am sure you have all the info.you need but I can be reached at the email below if you need first hand information on my home town. I’ll never forget it.
At least u got to live there when u did
Kool place kool story
I remember my parents driving our family through Centralia on the way to visit relatives. I would love to see the movie but live in New Jersey. Will it be available online?
Yes, the film will be available for on-line viewing and on discs. That release announcement will be made on this website and on the Centralia movie FB page in September.
My family was born and raised in Centralia. My great-great grandfather, Hugh Wilson emigrated from Scotland and was killed in a mine explosion in 1878, the same year my great-grandfather James Wilson became a citizen and denounced Victoria Queen of Great Britain and all royalty. James became a supervisor of 7 mines and stories tell of him riding a carriage with a team of white horses, when he had a bit too much to drink, he could say “home” and they would do so. My grandfather John Wilson was the first college educated Wilson & he became a chemist and opened Wilson’s Drug Store in Centralia. It was later taken over by my grandmother, Madeline Graeber-Wilson also a druggist in Centralia. After the fire & most of the family had moved out, my great-uncle Father Anthony McGinley tried to help with the relocation of folks who stayed, he gave up a good part of his retirement for people who weren’t always appreciative. Our family’s roots are deep and our blood runs red in the great town of Centralia! God Bless Centralia and all who hail from her!
I grew up going to Wilson’s drug store. I believe her name was Madeline. I also knew Rev Anthony Mc Ginley. If it’s the same one, he taught me religion at Mt. Catholic High School. I attended there 1952-1956. He was a great teacher. After leaving Centralia in 1963, I returned to be married at St Ignatius Church in 1970. My parents, grandparents, and others were all buried in St IGN. Cemetery.
This is a reply to Jim Wilson’s post
I’m from Centralia. I lived there all my life and moved out in 1983 when I got married. I now live in Horsham, Pa. My memories of Centralia are endless. All the people of the town looked out for each other. It was a family town. I have a VHS Tape where my husband and brother Bill took video footage of the town and the mind fire on Christmas day. Date is some where between 1988-1990ish. Video is clips of the cememtary at St Ignatius church were the smoke is coming out of the ground and other parts of town. It so sad what the government did to our town and the people there. But my memories will live on.
I’m so excited the movie is coming to my local area (Blue Bell) next week! I finally got to visit Centralia in October 2017 and took my boys (12&14)… and it’s true about state police increasing patrols…. because we were stopped! We had parked at the south end and walked all the way to the other. We were walking around a bit (not venturing far) but the state trooper stopped us and wouldn’t let us walk back down through OLD 61. We actually had to walk along the main highway all the way back to our car- as if that was safer!
How do I get a copy of the movie of Centralia. My Aunt & uncle lived there. Names were Moyer, Derr, Maurer, Bolick more. We stopped @ playground were I was kid on our way to see our grandma Grammie Moyer
Hi Carolyn. You can purchase a copy here! http://www.centraliapalosttown.com/watch-purchase-buy-film/
Hope to see this on netflix
My great grandfather and his family lived in Centralia — one of my great uncles was born there in 1870, last name is Shaughnessy. Does anyone know if there is any historical documents of early residents or anything that I could look for?