Wilmington, North Carolina has earned the nickname, “Little Hollywood” due to the multitude of major motion pictures being filmed around the area. Episodes of television shows have also been filmed on the Screen Gem Studios lot and in historic locations along the coast.
The popularity of the Wilmington area with the began quite by accident in 1982. Movie producer Dino De Laurentis and director Frank Capra Jr. were searching for a location to shoot the movie Firestarter and stumbled across a photo of the Orton Plantation in a magazine. The property proved to be a perfect setting for the feature film and started a love affair between De Laurentis and the Cape Fear Coast. After the film wrapped, the producer began construction on a permanent studio in North Carolina. The studio, originally named DEG Studios underwent a name change in 1999 – EUE Screen Gems Studios. Once the studio became established in the area, Orton Plantation was used to film over a dozen more movies and nearly 30 television episodes. Films shot on location at the historic plantation include the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Road to Wellville, A Walk to Remember, Hound Dog, Lolita, When We Were Colored, The Grave, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Crimes of the Heart,The List, Travelerune in Tomorrow, The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys, Raw Deal, Idlewild, Strike the Tent, Shadrack, Black Knight, Kyoka, Morgan’s Ferry, Angel, Bruno, Stateside, Bolden! and the adaptation of Pat Conroy’s novel, The Water is Wide.
The community responded positively to its’ new nickname and frequent visits from celebrities. Jobs created at the facility and increased business for local merchants was a welcome shot in the arm to the local economy. In 2009, North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue passed legislation which offered tax incentives and exemptions for productions filming in the state. The studio routinely employs over 650 local residents on the production crew. The studio commissary and catering services also add employment opportunities for Cape Fear area workers.
As of 2010, EUE Screen Gems Studios had created over 250 television, movie and commercial productions. Films shot around the Cape Fear Coast include 28 Days starring Sandra Bullock, Black Dog starring Patrick Swayzee, Dawson’s Creek, Eastbound and Down, The Jackal, Little Britain USA, Nights in Rodanthe starring Richard Gere, Billy Bathgate starring Dustin Hoffman, Matlock and The Secret Life of Bees, just to list a few.
EUE Screen Gems Studios is self-sufficient facility, featuring paint and plaster shops, mill shops, a viewing theater and wardrobe department on-site. Ten very distinct stages are views during the public tours. The sets even include a water option, with a large concrete pool which has been used to simulate an outdoor body of water in multiple movies. The studios have a combined square footage of over 20,000. The studio offers 24 hour access and five production suites for the comfort of the production staff and movie stars. Top of the line technology services offer allow productions filmed along the coast of North Carolina to have the capabilities as those filmed in on movie lots in California. The EUE Screen Gems Studios is the largest production facility outside of Hollywood, California. While the studios has only been in North Carolina for a little over two decades, the company has operated a studio in New York for over six decades.
Public tours occur on Saturday and Sundays between the hours of noon and 2 pm. The EUE Screen Gem Studios tours won’t break your budget, with the average adult ticket price of $12 per person. Discounted admission is granted to college students, senior citizens, children age twelve and younger and members of the military. The walking tour lasts about an hour and includes a visit to the set of the ongoing production of the television show, One Tree Hill. The tour is enlightening as well as educational, and designed for the enjoyment of multi-generational visitors. Marvel at all of the behind the scenes work which goes into even the simplest of scenes or television commercial. The prop and wardrobe area are especially intriguing. Learn about the search for period clothing and decor, and the creation of futuristic costumes which make what we watch on the silver screen more authentic and believable. Walk through the movie sets and view everything that isn’t shown during a finished production. A living room scene with steps leading to an imaginary second floor and cardboard objects which appear so real you can’t hardly tell the difference even when viewing the object from only a short distance away.