The N.C. Department of Commerce picked a remake of “Dirty Dancing” over an HGTV home improvement reality show to receive state incentives in a first batch of film grant awards, according to records released this week.
In early April, commerce officials announced three grants worth $10 million – effectively emptying funding for the annual program that film backers say is a poor substitute for the more generous tax credit incentive program eliminated last year.
The winners were the CBS TV show “Under The Dome,” the TV movie remake of “Dirty Dancing” and an independent film about college basketball called “Late in the Season.”
Commerce released the three winning applications and four losers’ bids this week following a public records request from The News & Observer.
The state turned down a $1.23 million request from “Love It Or List It,” an HGTV series in which unhappy homeowners must decide whether to renovate their house or buy a new one.
The application promised 18 episodes would be filmed in the Triangle, creating 263 jobs and nearly $5 million in spending. But the production company said it would still come to North Carolina without the grant.
Commerce also rejected a $1.58 million grant request to film two episodes of the Fox mystery show “Sleepy Hollow” in the Wilmington area. The promise: 348 jobs and $6.31 million in spending. But the company offered bad news for North Carolina in its application.
“Production, if renewed by the network, will move to Georgia for Season 3 due to lack of funding” from North Carolina’s film program, the document says. The show’s first two seasons had been filmed in Wilmington under the incentive program.
The state awarded a $4 million grant for a TV remake of the movie “Dirty Dancing,” although the project wasn’t named in the April announcement. Lionsgate plans to create 1,300 jobs and spend $16 million in Asheville and “surrounding areas” this summer as it shoots a three-hour special to air on ABC.
The production is considering the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers as well as Winston-Salem’s Stevens Center Theater and Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre for filming locations. North Carolina beat out sites in Georgia, Pennsylvania and New York for the remake.
The application notes that “North Carolina has a long tradition with this project dating back to the original feature film.”
Liongate received the grant in March. “Indeed we will accept the generous grant and look forward to producing an amazing project with beautiful North Carolina as the backdrop,” Lionsgate senior vice president John Valentine wrote in an email.
“Late In the Season” – to be filmed on the campus of Davidson College – got the smallest grant at $1 million. It plans to spend $4 million and hire 135 people.
The state will get its biggest return on “Under The Dome,” which is returning to the Wilmington area for a third season. With a $5 million grant, the show plans to spend $35 million and hire 2,250 people – most of them from within the state.
“This is the ideal candidate for the grant,” the Commerce Department’s analysis says, “as it provides long-term, well-paying jobs ... and has remained committed to North Carolina.”
Two other grant applications arrived after the Feb. 1 deadline
The state film office has said all new applications are on hold pending more grant funding. Gov. Pat McCrory’s budget proposal seeks an additional $10 million per year for the program.
‘Dirty Dancing’ addresses sex concerns
State law prohibits film grants for any production containing “obscene” material, and applicants must provide their scripts to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Application materials for “Dirty Dancing” respond to concerns about sexual scenes in the production:
“The production does still have the story line that involves a dancer getting an abortion, but it does not specifically say that is what it is (only says a doctor is going to do a procedure to ‘handle it’), and there are some sexual references including two different scenes of couples in bed after engaging in intercourse.”