Old Joliet Prison continues to draw film industry

Lionsgate at Collins Street prison to film unnamed TV pilot for Fox TV

Film crews have been at the Old Joliet Prison the last couple of weeks, adding a Joliet location to yet another future television production.

Just what Lionsgate was filming is a bit of a mystery. Their last day in Joliet was Tuesday.

“We don’t know a whole lot about it,” said Greg Peerbolte, executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which manages the prison property. “It’s Lionsgate, and they are producing a television pilot. We don’t have a large amount of details. They’re trying to keep it hush-hush.”

Peerbolte does know that the Old Joliet Prison and other Joliet locations are becoming increasingly popular in the film business – both large and small.

Crews were at the prison last year to film segments for the TV series “Fargo,” an episode of “Destination Fear” for the Travel Channel, and an assortment of other independent and amateur productions.

“Joliet has had a really big uptick of interest from the film industry,” Peerbolte said. “What we hear is that Joliet has this very authentic history and blue-collar grit.”

The other Joliet location getting repeat visits from film crews is the Rialto Square Theatre, known for its authentic history rather than blue-collar grit.

Fox TV was at the Rialto in December filming for “The Big Leap,” a new series with a ballet theme. The Lionsgate filming at the prison this month also was for Fox TV.

Fox TV has an affinity for Joliet that dates back to “Prison Break,” another series filmed at the prison on Collins Street in the years before the city and museum in were able to open up the former Joliet Correctional Center for tourism and events.

The prison’s place in movies, most notably “The Blues Brothers,” and television have made it an attraction for visitors from across the United States as well as abroad.

“Joliet really has had a special place in pop culture certainly with “The Blues Brothers” and in films going back to the nineteen-teens,’ Peerbolte said.

For now, Peerbolte said he expects current interest in the prison to produce more film crew visits in 2021.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News