The first thing you see in “The Goonies” is a jailhouse, its cramped cells painted pale yellow, the hard-faced exterior soon illuminated by a wall of flames in the parking lot, as the pesky Fratelli family stages a dramatic getaway through the streets of Astoria.
Today, the old Clatsop County Jail looks exactly as it did in the 1985 cult classic movie. But instead of housing fictional prisoners like the ruthless Jake Fratelli, the building is now home to the Oregon Film Museum. Though the institution is dedicated to highlighting all movies made in Oregon, it ostensibly operates as a “Goonies” museum for now.
During the coronavirus pandemic, visitors have continued to stream into the museum from all over, said Mac Burns, executive director of the Clatsop County Historical Society, which runs the Oregon Film Museum. Still, with strict crowd limits on top of a face mask requirement, crowds were only about half what the museum is used to.
“It feels like the town is full,” Burns said. “Then I look at my attendance and it’s 50%.”
That’s troubling from a financial perspective, he said, but the fact that people are still traveling far and wide to see the Oregon Film Museum bodes well for the future.
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In its current incarnation, the museum is too small to properly honor all the films shot in Oregon. With half the space dedicated to “The Goonies” and the other half set up as an interactive film-your-own-movie experience, several big titles don’t get their due.
Largely absent from the museum are dozens of made-in-Oregon classics like “Stand By Me,” “Animal House,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Paint Your Wagon,” “Free Willy,” “Wild” and “Drugstore Cowboy.”
Some of those movies are honored with the Oregon Film Trail, an effort to enshrine well-known filming locations with signs across the state. The latest location, added to the trail in August, is Silver Falls State Park, which was used to film several scenes in the original 2008 “Twilight” movie, among other features.
The Oregon Film Trail was created by Oregon Film, the state office for film, TV and other media, in partnership with the Oregon Made Creative Foundation. It has already erected signs at more than a dozen other filming locations, primarily in the Willamette Valley and on the Oregon coast.
There’s an Oregon Film Trail sign for “The Goonies,” of course, right outside the Oregon Film Museum itself.
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Inside the museum, visitors can walk past the same yellow jail cells used for the movie. The cell that once held Jake Fratelli is now blocked off with plexiglass, and houses the outfit and gadgets worn by Richard “Data” Wang, the youngest of the Goonies. Beside the jacket is protagonist Mikey Walsh’s bicycle, its red handlebars and yellow wheels instantly recognizable for fans of the movie.
Burns said those are the kinds of props people really want to see – actual objects used in the movies. He hinted that the historical society has more props from other movies on hand, but he said there’s just not enough space at the old jailhouse. Since “The Goonies” remains the biggest draw, that’s what gets the precious real estate in Astoria.
“Certainly ‘Goonies’ is the driver; I’d be foolish to say it wasn’t,” Burns said. At the same time, “we wanted to be more than a ‘Goonies’ museum.”
That’s why the Clatsop County Historical Society has its eye on another building, a small storefront kitty-corner to the film museum that one day could house more exhibits, Burns said. While reluctant to get specific, he said the historical society has “some dramatic and pretty ambitious plans” down the road.
For now, the Oregon Film Museum will serve primarily to delight fans of “The Goonies.” There might not be much space in the old jailhouse, but this summer, a little corner was carved out for one more exhibit: a reproduction of skeleton pirate captain One-Eyed Willy and his treasure, which the Goonies discovered at the end of their adventure.
“Goonies never say die,” as the famous line goes. At the Oregon Film Museum, they’re making sure of it.
The Oregon Film Museum is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, October to April, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, May to September; $5 admission for adults, $2 for kids; 732 Duane St., Astoria; 503-325-2203; oregonfilmmuseum.org.
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