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News broke yesterday that Steven Spielberg’s next project will be a semiautobiographical film based on his years living in Phoenix.
Variety reports that the still-untitled film may include Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams, and that it will follow a boy growing up here in the 1950s and ’60s, and will follow his relationship with his parents across multiple eras.
Production is scheduled to start this summer; a 2022 release date is planned.
Since we’re big fans of Spielberg, and even bigger fans of Phoenix history, we’ve got some ideas about places around town that should be included in the film.
Spielberg lived with his parents and sisters at 3443 North 49th Street.
Spielberg’s Childhood Home
Spielberg was just 10 years old when his parents moved him and his three younger sisters from Ohio to Arizona. The family settled at 3443 North 49th Street. Nancy Spielberg, the director’s youngest sister (and a filmmaker herself), told the Jewish newspaper the Forward that the family experienced anti-Semitism while living there. “The neighbors called us dirty Jews,” she said. “We weren’t one of them.”
Spielberg was bar mitzvahed on January 9, 1960, at Beth Hebrew Congregation in downtown Phoenix. The building, which has undergone a revitalization in recent years, is seen here early in the renovation process.
The family attended Beth Hebrew Congregation at 333 East Portland Street. The Conservative synagogue was founded by Holocaust survivors. A notice in the December 25, 1959, edition of the Phoenix Jewish News announced that “Steven Spielberg, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Spielberg … will be Bar Mitzvah Jan. 9  at Beth Hebrew Congregation.
The synagogue building traded hands several times over the decades until downtown developer Michael Levine purchased it in 2015 to preserve and restore it.
Spielberg recruited fellow Arcadia High School students to be in his early films.
Spielberg’s High School
Spielberg spent part of his high school career as an Arcadia Titan, where he played the clarinet in the school band and recruited classmates to star in his movies. The family moved while Spielberg was in high school, and he graduated from Saratoga High School in Saratoga, California.
Spielberg’s first movie screening made a $1 profit.
Spielberg’s First Movie Theatre
Before Jaws or Raiders of the Lost Ark or Schindler’s List, Phoenix Little Theatre let a 17-year-old Spielberg show his sci-fi film Firelight in their building. Spielberg told James Lipton during an episode of Inside the Actors Studio that the film cost $500 to make, and the box office receipts for the screening totaled $501.
The Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa has been the site of many Spielberg family Passovers.
Spielberg’s Seder Spot
Although the Spielberg family moved away in the mid-1960s, for a number of years the family (Spielberg’s parents along with their children and grandchildren) came back to town to celebrate Passover at the Arizona Biltmore, which offers upscale kosher accommodations and programming for the holiday.
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