Carolinas film industry stimulates local economy

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The film industry was the focus of the 2011 Joint Economic Growth Summit between UNCW and South Carolina's Coastal Carolina University Wednesday morning.

Southeastern North Carolina's film industry has generated eight television series and more than 2,300 features, mini-series and TV movies since the 1980s.  Economists at UNCW say the industry brings millions of dollars into the local economy and creates high-paying jobs.

"Motion pictures do a number of things. Probably the biggest one is hardest to measure – the visibility," said Woody Hall, senior economists at UNCW's Swain Center for Business and Economic Services.

Hall said Wilmington's ability to promote itself through the film industry has brought increased visibility to the area, with added economic benefits from tourism, new residents and businesses.

According to an economic study, the motion picture industry supports more than $74.67 million in economic activity in a year that sees four mid-major films.  Currently, Wilmington has six motion pictures in production.

Johnny Griffin from the Regional Film Commissions says the film industry is all about marketing.  The more films we get, the more in demand Wilmington will become.

"It's sort of like a hotel," explained Griffin.  "If you have an empty hotel it's kind of hard to market, because people wonder why is it empty. And now having a lot of companies here that can spend through word of mouth to LA and others in the film industry that are around the country."

According to Griffin, films have already spent $1.3 million in catering so far this year; $1.1 million in lumber; $420,000 in renting cars; and $120,000 in security.

The owner of Momentum Car Dealership off Oleander Drive has signed a contract with Screen Gems to use his vehicles in upcoming movies or TV shows.  Ben Swaim, the owner of the car dealership, believes his business was selected because it's unique.

Griffin says the 25 percent film incentive is playing a large part of attracting more films.  He also thinks some states are becoming too crowded with productions and their film incentives are unstable.

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