Lights, Camera, North Carolina! A Look at the Tarheel State on the Silver Screen

Located on the coast of North Carolina, the town of Wilmington is often referred to as “Hollywood East” due to the numerous television and film productions that have taken place there. It is also nicknamed “Wilmywood.” The references to Hollywood started in 1984 when Academy Award winning filmmaker Dino DeLaurentiis produced the film, Firestarter, in the area. Since then, it is said that more than 1,000 productions have been filmed in various parts of North Carolina. North Carolina’s legacy on the silver screen doesn’t stop there. The tarheel state has also been featured as the location for several movies and TV shows, including The Andy Griffith Show and, more recently, Outer Banks. 

The history of film in North Carolina starts before DeLaurentiis’ trip to Wilmington in 1984. It actually dates back to the early 1900s when studio movie companies created summer studios in the mountains to take advantage of the weather and scenery. W.S. Scales, an African American film producer, founded the first in-state studio in Winston-Salem shortly after. From there, film production took off in North Carolina and often resulted in pioneering new production methods, including the use of motion pictures as an educational tool. This happened in 1921 when Mabel Evans, superintendent of Dare County, reached out to the State Board of Education and others to promote the story of the British colonizing the New World. On November 15, 1921, Governor Cameron Morrison and others arrived for the premiere of the silent motion picture, The Lost Colony. This film was made by Elizabeth Grimball, the director of the New York School of the Theatre and the Atlas Film Corporation of Chicago. Soon after its premiere, the film was made for general distribution. By the time 1980 rolled around, Governor James B. Hunt created the North Carolina Film Office (today known as the North Carolina Film Commission). Six years later, North Carolina is one of the top three filmmaking states in the nation. 

Let’s take a look at the many films and TV shows that showcase our beautiful scenery and historic locations, as well as the ones set in our famous state. 

Filmed in North Carolina: (Some of these are also set in North Carolina) 

    • Dirty Dancing – Lake Lure 
    • Last of the Mohicans – Chimney Rock State Park, waterfall of DuPont State Forest, Asheville, The Biltmore Estate, Lake James and Linville Falls 
    • The Hunger Games – DuPont State Forest, Asheville, Shelby, Black Mountain, Cedar Mountain, Charlotte, Concord, Barnardsville and Hildebran
    • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – Charlotte Motor Speedway and Lake Norman
    • Nights in Rodanthe – Rodanthe
    • Richie Rich – The Biltmore Estate
    • The Green Mile – Blowing Rock 
    • Leatherheads – Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Statesville
    • Weekend at Bernie’s – Wrightsville Beach, Bald Head Island and Fort Fisher
    • Dawson’s Creek – Wilmington
    • The Color Purple – Anson and Union County
    • Shallow Hal – Charlotte 
    • Bull Durham – Durham, Wilson, Greensboro and Burlington
    • Sleeping with the Enemy – Wilmington and Kure Beach 
    • Patch Adams – Chapel Hill and Asheville 
    • A Walk to Remember – Wilmington 
    • We’re the Millers – Prominently features Market Street in Wilmington 
    • The Longest Ride – Winston-Salem, Wilmington, Jacksonville, Caswell Beach and Wallace 
    • Forrest Gump – Blue Ridge Parkway 
    • One Tree Hill – Wilmington 

Set in North Carolina, but Filmed Elsewhere: 

  • Outer Banks
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • Mayberry R.F.D
  • The Carmichael Show 
  • In the Best of Families 

This is just a fraction of the list of productions filmed and set in the Tarheel State. Thanks to the many different landscapes and locations offered by our state, North Carolina is an ideal location for film productions. As you can see, spots, such as Asheville and Wilmington and their surrounding areas, are favorites. In fact, our beloved state will once again be seen along with The Biltmore Estate in the upcoming Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, A Biltmore Christmas, premiering this holiday season. As one could easily tell, the whole state is loved by filmmakers of the silver screen. Who knows where we will turn up next?


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