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Governor Hunt: Lights, Camera, Action?

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RALEIGH — Governor Hunt's proposed budget contains money to promote North Carolina's sagging film production business.

Movie revenues have dropped drastically in the past two years, and the Department of Commerce wants $400,000 to "sell" the state to movie and TV producers.

Five years ago the film business boomed in North Carolina; second only to California in revenue.

Now, competition from other states, foreign production and labor problems have pushed North Carolina to third place and the decline continues.

North Carolina has seen a good share of movie and TV production pumping out $5 billion worth in 17 years.

"We are down but everybody else is down as well," Director of the N.C. Film Commission William Arnold said. "The state of California lost over a billion dollars last year to business which they attribute going to Canada."

Consequently, Governor Hunt is asking for $400,000 to bolster the state's film fortunes.

"We need to go back out to Los Angeles and convince those people, and hit them hard that we want the business; that we are still competitive," Arnold said.

Movies and television programs continue to be made at the major studios like paramount pictures. However as production costs rise, the work had moved to other states like North Carolina and Florida and Canada.

Cities like Vancouver and Toronto have become film production centers.

"They're probably 10 to 20 crews in Vancouver and there have been over 30 productions shooting simultaneously in Toronto," Entertainment attorney Gunnar Erickson said.

Erickson claimed that union problems may affect North Carolina productions.

"I think that there's probably a little bit of nervousness about uncertainty in that situation," Erickson said.

The main problem is money. A U.S. dollar in Canada is worth a dollar and a half. And 21 percent rebates are being refunded on labor. That spells trouble for North Carolina.

The Department of Commerce said that North Carolina lost $111 million in production revenue from 1996 to 1997. The state ranks third behind California and Florida, but that position is in jeopardy.


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