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Film Commission: 2021 Expected To Be Major Year For Local Production Spending

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jul 9, 2021
This year will likely be one of the region’s biggest film spending years, said Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

“So far we're easily in the neighborhood of $250 million in spending,” Griffin said Friday. “And it would not surprise me, based on what we’re dealing with right now, that we approach, or even exceed, $300 million.”

That would make 2021 one of the biggest years for dollars brought in by locally shot productions. The last time the region saw that much in annual spending was 2012, during what Griffin called, “the Iron Man Year.”

In 2012, there was $247 million in area production spending with $130 million alone coming from Marvel's Iron Man 3, he said.

The area’s latest production, the FOX drama series Our Kind of People, started filming this week, Griffin said Friday.

Three other productions – Amazon series The Summer I Turned Pretty, Netflix series Florida Man and One Summer – are listed in preproduction on the film commission's website.

It's not yet known what production company is filming One Summer. Griffin declined to give information about that production.

All upcoming productions are slated to be rolling cameras by late summer or fall, he said.

And although it's not listed on the Wilmington Regional Film Commission website as in preproduction, EUE/Screen Gems Studios reported on its Twitter page that the Netflix thriller Echoes is anticipated to film in Wilmington.

These current productions, on top of recently filmed projects that include This Country, Hightown, Static and Line Sisters, are raking up hundreds of millions in film spending across the region this year, Griffin said.

In 2019 the area saw $129 million in regional spending from productions, and in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic impacted film companies across the nation, spending dipped to $70 million, he said.

Prior to the Iron Man year, Griffin dated any spending over $250 million back to the 1990s.

More productions are looking at Wilmington due to remnants of the state’s so-called Bathroom Bill, or House Bill 2, being gone, as well as recurring funding for the state’s film grant program and removal of the program's sunset date.

Another factor is the amount of content coming out due to the rise in demand for video streaming services, Griffin said.

“We've got an industry now that streaming is getting bigger than ever. For the existing companies that were in streaming, you've got increased viewership because of COVID. And the industry is changing to people watching streaming instead of going to the theater, so they need more content. You continually have more streaming services coming online,” Griffin said.

“Everybody has come up with a streaming platform now and is trying to create content. So you've got all these new companies now that need to produce product, and so there's more product being made out there,” he said.

The rise in streaming is creating more opportunities to land projects for the Wilmington region, he said.

In addition, many of the TV or streaming productions that have filmed or will film soon in the Wilmington area this year could be renewed next year, making it possible that the region might see some repeat business if those productions choose to return, Griffin said.

“Post-COVID you’ve got a lot of industries that are still trying to figure out how to go back to business … And yet we’re doing better than ever," Griffin said.

"It’s full steam ahead, and [productions] are spending money. It's money that's certainly going into the local economy that I'm sure is helping restaurants, helping stores and lumber yards and hotels that have been hurt by that pandemic," he added. "So I think it's a good thing that this industry is here and is spending as much money as they can.”
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