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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – Local business owners can soon take a piece of the film industry pie. The Wilmington Regional Film Commission is now offering memberships.

As head of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, Johnny Griffin is responsible for recruiting productions.
To do that, the non-profit organization relies on ad sales from its production guide.

“We’re finding people are using the book less and less because people are using the online, with their mobile apps and phones. Once we tell them them can find the info on our database, they don’t usually ask for a copy of the book,” said Griffin.

The Film Commission is getting rid of that book. By becoming members, business owners will now have ads listed online and will be considered film friendly vendors.

“We just say, ‘here are a list of vendors who want to do business with the movie industry that understand your special unique needs and have expressed an interest in working with you, we’d encourage you to try and use our members first’,” said Griffin.

Port City Signs and Graphis get lot of work from the film industry, but they hope by joining the film commission their business will grow even more.

Owner Sabrina Davis is currently doing work from some big productions right now. Her business does everything from making road signs to creating graphics for vehicles that will be used in a film or tv show.
She says this is a unique opportunity advertise her business while supporting the film commission.

“Advertising is not usually that way, that you want to benefit the organization that you’re buying ads from,” said Davis. “I want them to grow because they are helping me grow.”

Business owners can learn more about the commission and memberships at the “Growing with Wilmington’s film industry” breakfast. It’s September 26 at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside.

Comment on this Story

  • ChefnSurf

    … with all of the events they’re currently hosting. They are having a “record breaking” year, you know.

    Saffo would have suggested using the CC but he was too busy trying to come up with a good reason why council signed an exclusive with Mandalay and why council’s trying to stall on disclosing any agreement details with them until after the referendum.

  • SurfCityTom

    I had not thought of that. But I wonder now that the Mayor, who sits on the Film Commission Board of Directors, has taken a stilletto in the ribs from the Commission Head, will he start wearing Kevelar? Or at least have a bulky city police officer with him to cover his back when in public?

  • Vog46

    Whats NOT being said is “the answer”

    A small group meeting COSTS the CC more then they are worth.
    Yes the facility is going to be “open” and staffed anyway but with a breakfast meeting you’ve got caterers coming and going etc. Then you have to actually clean up after them.
    The success of the CC (or any CC for that matter) hinges on large groups from outside the area coming here.
    In that respect they have failed miserably


  • SurfCityTom

    check out the CC website. Look at the staff and some of the job titles.

    They have the players in place to cover the needs of a breakfast meeting.

    My point and question is, did the Film Commission even consider the CC for its meeting? After all, both are subsidized by the City.

    If it did not, then does that mean the CC is not suitable for any meeting of that sort? And if so, then why have all of the staff members being paid ultimately by the City?

  • SurfCityTom

    you might want to check your facts.

    The Wilmington Regional Film Commission is a local, non-profit.

    The breakfast meeting was for local business owners who would be asked to become advertising members.

    This is no statewide meeting.

    You’re missing my point.

    Why was the CC not considered?

    As you said — size of attendance? Then does that mean the CC is not suited for any meeting of that size?

    If not, what is it suited for?

    The city is hemorraging money maintaining white elephants. And the Baseball proponents would add an even larger one.

    You yourself provided a link which shows some pretty gloomy numbers. And they’re not getting better.

    So what is your solution?

    Frankly, we’re raising questions which should have been asked in 2009 or 2010. These are the same type of questions which should have been asked months ago concerning the over priced, river front albatross they would have the city build.

    Let’s see. It was reported construction costs for the white elephant were $60 million. The albatross is looking at $37 Million.

    What do you think VOG. It would seem to me they should get the one already grazing at least to a break even point before they throw the albatross around property taxpayers necks.

    We have bigger issues to address than how long the City will continue to pour millions down this drain.

  • Vog46

    First –
    THe Film commission is a state wide organization. The film industry only employs 600 locally and abut 2000 state wide. Perhaps their attendance did not justify the use of such a large facility.
    Second they can cut down on the size of the rooms but did you see the food pricing? Crickets that’s high. I would bet that for smaller functions with meals the Coastline and the HIlton both undercut the CC’s prices. So it’s a matter of efficiently using your available dollars to get more bang for your buck.
    Hilton? Room, free parking, free continental breakfast? Catering available for events.
    CC? Paid parking available, all meals and snacks catered and costly separate hotel accomodations nearby.
    The CC can’t satisfy all groups for may reasons
    The Hilton and CLCV can’t satisfy large groups due to space only.

    In fairness not getting a specific meeting does not mean the CC isn’t capable of handling it, they just didn’t get it this year.
    Forget the Wilmington is a destination place argument. If you’re an event planner and you’re comparing the CC to the Hilton the Hilton wins hands down on every category – but the biggest one is price.
    Too many facilities competing for fewer meetings……


  • Vog46

    Sorry got the Regional film Comm confused with this group:

    Lets see if I can get this straight:
    The convention center:
    “It was reported construction costs for the white elephant were $60 million.”
    That’s correct. 20 years at 4% is about $88M if I’m correct

    The stadium:
    “The albatross is looking at $37 Million.”
    $37M at 20 years at 4% is $57M

    The Convention Center is the big cahuna here Tom, NOT the stadium. How do we fix it? I don’t have a clue – you know why? Because you’re asking me to fix an entire industry. Look, conventionaeering is going away for the most part, as are smaller meetings that can be handled by teleconference.
    A – we could FORCE any entity within the city, that gets city funds to consider the CC first but that takes markets away from the Hilton and Coastline Convention Center. Both of THEM are viable long term occupants down town that have served the city well for various functions.
    B – An interesting thought. Sell it. Call it the Cape Fear Crystal Cathedral and have Pastor Hagee come in from San Antonio once per week to service the suffering souls in this area. Or sell it the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.
    C – convert it into a school?

    As a convention center, I think it’s toast. I don’t even know if it can break even. Of course without seeing an actual accounting I couldn’t even begin to suggest other things.

    I’m at a loss here because the whole convention center “thing” is bad. It would be like promoting Eaton to Manager of Tom’s TV Antenna shop.
    She faces immediate extinction.

    But even at that the city is nowhere near it’s spending limit (and shouldn’t be). Its is not in financial trouble (yet) but I am concerned over some remarks Charlie Rivenbark one of our city councilors made before the County Commissioners at a joint meeting. He said “We need to annex to garner the tax monies” etc etc etc. That bothersome, and a very stupid remark to make, but it could be telling as to Wilmington’s financial condition.
    Get it as close as we can to making $ for 29 years then sell is all I can come up with.


  • SurfCityTom

    at least we are both thinking outside the box. You came up with a couple of thoughts which I had not.

    Bottom line to me, Get a qualified consultant which will for a fee, review fiscal performance and identify types of events which can be held in the white elephant.

    You hit on one. Convert it to a school, How about CCFC; nearby and needs room to grow. Maybe they can expand their culinary program to include event planning.

    They get a nice barely used facility which they could convert to their needs for a lot less than they would spend on new construction.

    The city might get some type of tax credit.

    Maybe they could name it the Saffo Center for the Culinary Arts.

  • Vog46

    “What do you think VOG. It would seem to me they should get the one already grazing at least to a break even point before they throw the albatross around property taxpayers necks.”

    Having thought about this for awhile let’s consider this.
    First we have to assume its losing a large amount of money.
    THe budget website is saying over $4M a year in debt service alone which makes sense for a $60M bond at 4% over 20 years – you’re coming out at over $85M so $4M makes sense.
    Then you have the operating costs of $3.93M
    To keep it simple we’ll say $8M between operating and debt service.
    In order to get to break even there would have to be a much much larger number of large public events scheduled which again makes operational costs go even higher.

    There’s no way to get to that level of break even given the current market conditions. This is why they don’t WANT us to know just how badly it’s doing so they lump the CC into other budgetary funds.
    But just looking at debt and OP costs I see no other types of businesses that can generate the level of revenues needed to get to break even point.
    So now what? The only thing to do would be to convert it. How about making it the new city hall? Use the sale proceeds from selling the current one to offset the “mortgage”? County offices? They just moved out of down town. It is a government building used for functions administered by a private company.
    I would be curious to see how much of the Op costs are “fees” charged for running the joint, but I suspect those fee’s are relatively small compared to debt service so terminating the contract may not get us too much closer to break even – but any little bit may help.
    I could not find a good part of the CC’s website that told me the employment levels there – got a link?


  • SurfCityTom

    I looked at the website and there was a lsting of employees with job titles and email addresses.

    I concur, the best route is likely going to be a conversion.

    If the website is correct, it has a capacity of 1,500.

    You mentioned school — I think CCFC could put this building to great use. Expand their culinary course of study to include facility management. The cost of renovation would be far less than costs to construct new.

    Is there a Wilmington Visitor Center? I don’t know so I ask.

    How about a museum focused on MJ? He could cover the costs from his petty cash.

    The important point is to get this white elephant’s appetite under control so the City tax payers are not being so badly abused by the expense. I agree with your estimate, $8 Million is probably a reasonable guesstimate.

    This should be a no brainer. Someone, likely the City Finance Office should be able to state in easy to understand numbers:

    Revenue In
    Less Total Expenses, including debt service

    Equals Net Operating Loss

    But we’ll never see something that simple, will we?

  • Guestarticulatore

    Is the City of Wilmington still paying Griffin’s salary? If yes, why??

  • SurfCityTom

    the city of Wilmington pays some type of subsidy or support fee to the Commission (it has a name which eludes me). New Hanover County also chips in some funds. Then they charge advertising fees for the book which they hope to discontinue through sale of memberships for online access.

    From those monies, his salary and administrative expenses are paid.

    But note, this piece raises a question.

    The piece notes movie production companies will be encouraged to use the services of the dues paying members.

    Should that not be a two way street?

    There’s a breakfast meeting scheduled at the Hilton, which is a nice facility.

    But, if the Commission receives a significant amount of dollar support from City Government, why is the meeting being held at the Hilton and not at the City funded Convention Center?

    I’d like to hear the answer for that one from the film commission Director.

    And I’d like to hear the Mayor’s response to the slap in the face if there is no legitimate reason for the meeting not being held at the CC. After all, the Mayor is one of two City Council members who serve on the Film Comission Board of Directors. Did the Mayor feel the stiletto being slipped between his ribs?

  • Guestfellini

    There are businesses in this town that work with the film industry and there are others who wish not to. This gives those that do exposure and promotion so that when productions come into the area, they will know who to deal with. Personally, as one of the local crew members that spends a lot of money with vendors this will help me decide who to give my business to.


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