Wilmington was once considered “the Hollywood of the South.” However, in recent years, the presence of the film industry in NC has been fading, with some companies reporting revenue losses of 20 to 40 percent (WNCN). Much of this decline was due to the General Assembly killing the state’s 25 percent tax incentive in 2014.
“When incentives stopped, it was like turning off the faucet,” explained Jed McDonough, owner of a print shop in Wilmington which, prior to 2015, had been making a large portion of its revenue off of local movie posters. “It literally ended.”
The exodus of the industry was worsened however, by House Bill 2, which caused a rapid decline in film production in the state. There have been sparks of hope—such as “The Hunger Games,” which filmed outside Asheville—but overall, the decline continues.
Though only several movies and series filmed in NC last year, one was a fairly high-profile film by Academy Award winner Martin McDonaugh, called “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The movie features several major stars including Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Peter Dinklage, whose presence in the state ignited gossip, once again putting the spotlight on the NC film industry, if only for a moment.
In the wake of a semi-successful year, 2017 brings only three productions in total to NC. The most famous of the three is HGTV’s “Love it or List it,” a series of which several episodes will be filmed in the state. The other two are feature films: “American Animals” and “Bolden!”
In contrast with the decline in film production in NC, there has been a massive influx of film students to the state. The University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem is one of the nation’s top film schools. This year, its enrollment was up more than 36 percent compared to the year before. One of these new students was Lucas Hedges, a 2017 Oscar nominee for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in “Manchester By The Sea.” Perhaps the influx of film students to NC will bring an influx of movie productions.