Mucking about in ESRI’s online version of ArcGIS, I’ve whacked together a bunch of maps full of points to start looking for patterns in the narrative settings of the yearly box office top twenty. One thing that jumps out about 1991, even in comparison to the years before and after it, is the way in which film settings move to less-frequently chosen spots like Alabama and southern Georgia (Fried Green Tomatoes) Memphis, Baltimore, and eastern Ohio (Silence of the Lambs), western PA near Pittsburgh (My Girl), Cedar Rapids IA (Sleeping With the Enemy), North Carolina (Cape Fear),  and, to a lesser extent, vacation-spot New Hampshire (What About Bob?) and western Mass. (Prince of Tides).

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The next year shows some continued work from keen location scouts – parts of upstate New York (Last of the Mohicans) and a touch of rural Oregon (A League of Their Own) plus some Oklahoma land theft rush (Far and Away). And in spite of Unforgiven returning to some of the Wyoming and Plains settings familiar to westerns, there’s a lot more of a big city orbit for 1992 – plenty of Chicago, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles:

The map that the locations rest on top of represents median household income for the decade. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the films are set in the darker (higher median income) counties. The purple dot in the yellow county is a bit of an outlier, because that’s for the Louisiana prison in JFK.  So even when a 1991 escapes the usual shooting locations, it retains a solidly middle-class grounding. I would also note that the darkest, that is to say most affluent, counties are also quite sparsely represented. Housesitter looks at well-to-do architects and their mentally unbalanced guests, and so takes place in an affluent Boston suburb; but Silence of the Lambs takes place in a rich county only because training center is at Quantico, not because Clarice is loaded (although Biltmore will make an appearance in a sequel, not that Clarice lives there).