Wilmington film industry sees strong 2020 despite pandemic


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a good year for the film industry in North Carolina and in Wilmington specifically.

After a strong start to the year, the film industry was dealt a blow when all productions were shut down due to the pandemic. Approximately six months later, Wilmington roared back strong with productions like Scream and U.S.S Christmas coming to the area.

“2020, even with COVID, was a good year for us.” said Wilmington Regional Film Commission Director Johnny Griffin. “The last four or five months of the year have been very very busy for us,”

Griffin says 2019 was the best year for the local industry in half a decade, with productions in our area spending about $137 million. Although that that figure is estimated to be cut in half for 2020 at approximately $65 million, Griffin says it’s still better than recent years.

“Even though we had COVID this year and we were down for six months, we’ll still do more business this year than we did in 2016, 2017, or 2018,” he said.

Griffin attributes some of this success to the state’s film grant program, offering productions up to a 25 percent rebate on qualifying expenses.

“They’ve given un an incentive program that we’ve been able to be successful with and I think now we’re starting to see the results of that,” Griffin said. “And word is getting out in the industry and people are finding that it’s a favorable place to be.”

He also believes COVID-19 case numbers and restrictions across the country and world could be working in Wilmington’s favor.

“When you look at our competition, you know Vancouver, Toronto, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, those cities obviously have been hit harder with this,” Griffin said. “And so people look at North Carolina and realize that it’s a place that maybe is a little bit more comfortable for them to work.”

Griffin says COVID-19 has created additional challenges for productions, requiring additional time and money. However with many people stuck at home, it’s also created a need for new streaming content.

Griffin predicts 2021 will be another record year.

“There’s more product being made now than there ever has been,” he said. “And so with more product, there’s just more opportunities for us.”

Statewide, North Carolina Film Office Director Guy Gaster reports there are already eight projects committed the tar heel state in 2021, set to bring in an estimated $114 million. That already beats out the 2020 statewide total of $107 million.

Click here to watch December’s NC Film Commission meeting.

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