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EUE/Screen Gems In Wilmington Sold

By Audrey Elsberry, posted Sep 27, 2023
The EUE/Screen Gems studio campus in Wilmington on North 23rd Street will now operate as Cinespace Wilmington. (File photo)

Toronto-based film company Cinespace Studios bought the EUE/Screen Gems studio campuses in Wilmington and Atlanta, officials announced Wednesday.

Cinespace declined to comment on the terms of the deal. 

Ashley Rice, president and co-managing partner of Cinespace Studios, said in a news release, “Through the strategic acquisition of these well-regarded studio facilities, we're expanding our footprint in the industry and commitment to supporting every type of creative need.”

Wilmington’s studio campus on North 23rd Street will operate as Cinespace Wilmington, according to the release.

EUE/Screen Gems’s third studio in Miami was not a part of the sale and remains under the same ownership, according to a EUE/Screen Gems spokesperson.

Cinespace already owns 86 stages across three locations in Toronto, Chicago and Babelsberg, Germany. Popular TV shows such as The BearThe Handmaid’s Tale and Empire have been filmed at Cinespace facilities.

North Carolina’s largest film production company, EUE/Screen Gems Ltd., has provided production space and infrastructure for TV shows and movies in Wilmington since the 1980s. The site of Hollywood East cultivated a film industry around the North 23rd Street facilities. EUE/Screen Gems’s base served as an epicenter for activity in the area for the past four decades.

The Wilmington film studio currently has 10 stages on 50 acres of land north of downtown Wilmington. Notable TV and movies filmed at EUE/Screen Gems’s Wilmington site have included Iron Man 3One Tree Hill and Dawson’s Creek.

A man touted as the father of Wilmington’s film industry, Frank Capra Jr., first scouted Wilmington as a film location for the Stephen King thriller Firestarter in the 1980s. The executive producer of the film, Dino De Laurentiis, liked the location so much he came back to build his own film studio for his company, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, which sold its studios to Carolco after it went bankrupt. Carolco then sold its facilities to EUE/Screen Gems, according to the Wilmington Regional Film Commission.

George Cooney, who purchased EUE/Screens Gems in 1983, bought the Wilmington studio space from Carolco in 1996. The Cooney family has run EUE/Screen Gems ever since.

The Cooney family brought Capra back to Wilmington to serve as president of the company in 1997. The Wilmington studio’s current executive vice president is Bill Vassar, who took the role in the early 2000s, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“The Cooney family has successfully built two great companies in both Atlanta and Wilmington,” said Eoin Egan, COO & Co-Managing Partner, Cinespace Studios. “We’re looking forward to welcoming both studio operations teams into Cinespace and will continue to offer a best-in-class service to production.”

The company’s latest studio, Dream Stage 10, was the third-largest film and production stage in the country when it opened in 2009. The almost 40,000-square-foot stage features a 186,000-gallon indoor special effects water tank. The Wilmington studio overall includes 150,000 square feet of space.

The Wilmington film scene died down in 2014 after a tax credit program for film productions expired. But in 2021, Wilmington’s film industry rebounded, netting an estimated $311 million thanks to post-pandemic build-up of TV and film productions and the state’s revised film incentive program.

The announcement Wednesday from Cinespace about its expansion came on the same day as the end of the Writers Guild of America's recent strike. The nearly 6-month strike resulted in a shutdown of most TV and film production in Wilmington and beyond.

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