Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Destination: Starring North Carolina! at the N.C. Museum of History

Posted November 20, 2014

Even if you aren't a film buff, you probably know that much of "Dirty Dancing" was shot in the North Carolina mountains; "Bull Durham" was filmed mostly in the Triangle; and that "The Hunger Games" features western North Carolina locations.

But how about these fun facts: Did you know that two of novelist Stephen King's earliest movies were shot in Wilmington - "Firestarter" and "Cat's Eye," both starring a young Drew Barrymore? Or that long before the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie came out this year, the original movie was mostly shot in Wilmington back in 1990? 

Those tidbits and more are part of a new exhibit at the N.C. Museum of History that tells the story of some of the more than 3,000 films and TV programs that have been made here. Starring North Carolina! opened last week and runs through Sept. 6.

The exhibit spans 100 years of filmmaking in North Carolina, starting with silent movies and moving on to the blockbusters that have been shot here in recent years. "The Hunger Games" is one of the top-grossing films in the United States and the world, earning nearly $700 million worldwide.

The filming of "Firestarter" in Wilmington in the early 1980s is credited with launching the movie and TV industry in North Carolina as we know it. Dozens of major motion pictures, independent films and TV movies and shows have been filmed in North Carolina since then. It's been dubbed "Hollywood East." 

Starring North Carolina! features hundreds of artifacts from many of those shoots. Visitors can peruse everything from costumes and props to scripts, memorabilia and other bits and pieces of the movie and TV industry. And there's a more local connection with a section on how movie theaters and the movie experience has changed over the years in North Carolina - from ornate downtown theaters where patrons dressed up to see a show to today's multiplexes and home theater systems.

The exhibit will especially resonate with young moviegoers and TV fans, especially tweens and teens who might be familiar with some of the movie and shows being made in our state. I suspect that they'll be lining up to see costumes from "The Hunger Games;" props from "Iron Man 3" and "The Conjuring;" and items from shows like "Sleepy Hollow." In the museum's lobby, they also can see Ricky Bobby's No. 26 Wonder Bread race car from "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby."

But the exhibit also provides some interactive opportunities for kids of all ages to get take away more from Starring North Carolina. Some are low-tech, including pieces where visitors can slide a race car, flip a basketball or check out a giant View-Master to learn more about movies about racing and sports and films with just a handful of scenes shot in North Carolina.

There's a giant popcorn box where exhibit goers can stick on their reason for why they still go to the movie theater. And there's a cut out of a body where exhibit goers can lift a knife to learn more about horror movies filmed here.

The exhibit features individual cases with props and pieces from a variety of films and TV shows. In many of the cases, an interactive screen lets visitors see how the props they are looking at in the exhibit was used in the actual film. There also are interviews with cast members, the crew and others.

One word of caution here: Parents should be aware that the cases featuring the films "Blue Velvet" and "Cat's Eye" have some scenes and items that might not be appropriate for all ages. You'll find these tucked away next to each other not far from the cases for "Dirty Dancing" and the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. The museum has placed a red octagon-shaped sign to warn parents.

And there are higher-tech exhibits that involve interactive screens and experiences. Visitors can try out lines from North Carolina-made and other classic movies or TV shows while being filmed. They can take pictures of themselves sitting in directors chairs, snapping clap boards, to share on social media. There's an old-fashioned TV with actual dials (kids might need help with those because it's likely they've never seen one before) where visitors can take a trivia test on North Carolina TV shows.

Kids will really enjoy the interactive foley artist exhibit at the end of the Starring North Carolina. Foley artists create sounds, which are edited into a film. Here, visitors can choose between making sound effects for an action or horror movie. The screen then guides them to make the right sounds at the right time, including a slap board for the sound of gun shots; voice to shout or moan; a crash box for a slamming door; and shoes to simulate the sound of foot steps.

Another warning here: The horror movie will seem hokey to most of us, but it may be frightening for younger viewers.

Watch the video to hear more from museum educator Sally Bloom, a mom of four who shared some tips for taking kids through the exhibit.

The museum has lined up a variety of special events and activities for all ages to feature the exhibit.

They include a monthly film series on the second Friday of each month with a film that's been made in North Carolina that's introduced by a featured speaker. The movies are mostly rated PG-13 and R, but they might make for a fun evening with tweens or teens.

The Longleaf Film Festival is May 2. It will explore historic and contemporary stories from the state, country and world through narrative and documentary movies. Winning entries will be shown at the festival. There are categories for middle school and high school students.

And the museum's regular programs for kids tie in the exhibit.

History Corner: Starring North Carolina! is 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., Dec. 3, for ages 6 to 9 with an adult. It's $3 per child. And History Hunters: Behind the Scenes at the Movies is 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Dec. 3, for ages 10 to 13. It's $3 per child. Call 919-807-7988 to register for the programs.

Tickets for Starring North Carolina! are $10 per person; $6 for ages 7 to 17, active military personnel and college students with an ID; and free for ages 6 and under. The museum is at 5 E. Edenton St. in downtown Raleigh.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations.

1 Comment

Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Lyle Gravatt Feb 23, 2015
    user avatar

    How do you do a story about the film industry in North Carolina without mentioning the debate concerning film incentives?