Dark Horse Studios saddles up to bring Wilmington to top of film industry

Dark Horse Studios opened its doors in 2020.
Dark Horse Studios
Dark Horse Studios (Photo: Sydney Bouchelle/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A new studio in Wilmington has saddled up in the race to bring Wilmington to the top of the film industry.

For years, EUE/Screen Gems Studios has been the only major film studio in Wilmington. As the industry has grown rapidly, Dark Horse Studios opened in 2020 to provide more studio space for the productions coming to the area.

After opening the more than 100,000 square foot campus off Market Street, Studios President Kirk Englebright says they’ve hosted TV shows, feature films, and everything in between with budgets big and small. After being open for only two years, the studio is revamping its branding, landscape, and more all while planning a major expansion.

“It’s really a one-stop shop. Our goal is to deliver the space to filmmakers and our job is to get out of their way and let them do what they’re good at and be creative,” Englebright said.

Most recently, the TV series “George and Tammy” starring Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain wrapped at Dark Horse. Knowing his studio will be in the credits of the highly anticipated show, Englebright says it makes him want to get up and come to work even earlier the next day to make it even better.

As more productions seek Wilmington as their backdrop, Englebright says it’s not just about bringing people into Wilmington, it’s about taking care of the locals too.

“When we were designing and creating Dark Horse, who’s going to be in here? Who’s going to fill the space? The people that are filling the space are our neighbors. It’s Wilmington. It’s the people we see at the grocery store,” he said.

The booming film industry doesn’t just provide job security for the people in the industry — it’s everyone.

“It’s a pretty significant impact of what film does for the Wilmington market and other communities surrounding. You’ve got these productions that come in with $20-million, $100-million budgets. That money is spent right here locally in our economy,” Englebright said. “From mom and pop restaurants to housing, whatever you’re going to be doing when you’re living somewhere. That’s being spent here.”

Word about Wilmington’s newest studio has traveled fast. Englebright says when one production wraps, five more are calling to book studio space.

“We’ve been 100-percent occupancy. We’ve have zero vacancy for two years straight,” he said. “We know we’re doing something right when the phone rings and it’s nothing but positive feedback on the production that was here and there’s five other pictures that want to come in behind them. The question is — do we have space available?”

As “Hollywood East” grows, Dark Horse plans to pick up stride along with it — aiming to provide ample filming space and the most cutting edge technology.

“We have a pretty major expansion taking place in the coming months. I think with our investment in the campus and the community, we’re going to continue to see film and TV continue to thrive,” Englebright said.

Dark Horse Studios will be making a major announcement in the next 90 days.

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