RALEIGH — North Carolina’s film industry hit record-breaking numbers the past two years, but that’s unlikely to repeat in 2013, the director of the N.C. Film Office says.
In 2011, North Carolina hit it big with “The Hunger Games,” based on books that had a huge following before the movie was filmed. This year’s record is courtesy of the big-budget “Iron Man 3,” scheduled for release in May 2013.
Studios might make only one tent-pole film – movies that hold up the tent for the rest of the studio – a year, said Aaron Syrett, director of the N.C. Film Office. “The likelihood of us getting one of those each year is not realistic,” Syrett said.
Instead, the state’s main market is a film that costs $10 million to $50 million. They include “Safe Haven,” the movie based on the Nicholas Sparks book that stars Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel and was filmed in Southport, or “We’re the Millers,” starring Jennifer Aniston and filmed in Wilmington.
Year-end projections show television and film had direct in-state spending of more than $376 million in 2012 and created more than 4,100 crew positions. That beat the previous records, set in 2011, of $220 million in spending and 3,300 crew positions.
Nearly 50 productions registered with the state Film Office and filmed in North Carolina. That filming occurred in 30 of the state’s 100 counties.
Although he wouldn’t talk about specific projects for 2013, Syrett said he expects spending somewhere between the previous two years. He hopes the award-winning Showtime series “Homeland” will continue to film in the Charlotte area and the Cinemax series “Banshee,” which also films in and around Charlotte, gets a thumbs-up for renewal.
Not surprisingly, Syrett partially credits amped-up incentives that lawmakers approved in 2010 as one reason for the record-setting years. Productions can receive a 25 percent refundable tax credit based on their direct in-state spending on goods, services and labor.
Productions must spend at least $250,000. They receive the credit after spending is completed and after an audit by the state Revenue Department.
But that incentive applies only to the first $1 million of each person’s salary. When “The Hunger Games” filmed in North Carolina, the stars earned less than $1 million each, Syrett said.
The stars negotiated new contracts for the second part of the series, “Catching Fire,” which is one reason the studio decided to film the sequel in Georgia, where incentives cover the entire salary, Syrett said.