Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Wilmington’s 10-stage film studio sells to Cinespace

EUE/Screen Gems in Wilmington has been a part of Wilmington’s film industry. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — A global studio platform has taken over ownership of Wilmington’s largest film production facility on 23rd Street.

READ MORE: Dark Horse preps for strikes’ end, invests at least $20M on 2 new state-of-the art film stages

In a press release Wednesday, Cinespace revealed the acquisition of both Wilmington and Atlanta EUE/Screen Gems Studios. The price was not disclosed.

Cinespace Studios operates 86 active stages across Chicago, Toronto, and Studio Babelsberg in Germany. It has been home to HULU/FX’s Golden Globe-nominated “The Bear,” as well as “Handmaid’s Tale,” plus Dick Wolf’s “One Chicago” franchise, and Guillermo Del Toro’s Academy Award-winning “The Shape of Water,” among other hits.

Through its division, Cine Cares, it supports workforce development and crew diversity. According to the company, the move to own studios in Atlanta and Wilmington is part of its “efforts to provide a diverse portfolio of studios and resources to accommodate productions of all sizes under one global network.”

EUE/Screen Gems will become known as Cinespace Wilmington and Cinespace Atlanta.

Locally, the campus’ 152,000 square feet houses 10 purpose-built sound stages, as well as construction mills and offices. The studio has been at the heart of Wilmington’s film industry growth over 40 years.

Dino De Laurentiis’ De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG) first started the campus on North 23rd Street in Wilmington in the ’80s. Carolco Pictures took over in 1990 before EUE/Screen Gems acquired the company in 1996.

“Wilmington’s reputation as a sought-after destination for film and television will continue with Cinespace Studios’ new ownership,” Mayor Bill Saffo said in the release. “We look forward to collaborating and supporting productions in our coastal community.”

More than 400 films, commercials and television programs set up shop on the studio lot, including classics that have grown into cult favorites, such as “Blue Velvet” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”

Popular teenage dramas like “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” also utilized the space in the late ’90s to mid-2000s.

By 2010, it hosted Marvel Studios’ “Iron Man 3” and most recently Amazon Studios’ “The Summer I Turned Pretty.”

EUE/Screen Gems was owned by Chris Cooney, CEO of EUE/Screen Gems, Ltd., whose father, George, was an executive at Columbia Pictures before purchasing EUE/Screen Gems in 1982.

“We believe that Cinespace Studios will carry forward the legacy we’ve crafted to new heights,” Chris Cooney said in the release. “Their industry expertise, combined with their outstanding team and commitment to the local communities where they operate sets the stage for a successful future. We are proud of the many industry professionals we’ve had the pleasure to work with at our Atlanta and Wilmington studios.”

Wilmington’s nearly 50-acre campus was run by EUE/Screen Gems Executive Vice President Bill Vassar. Representatives from Cinespace did not respond to Port City Daily about whether someone new is in the position. Nor were questions answered regarding how long the acquisition has been underway and whether the local facility will see any upgrades; the piece will be updated upon response.

In Atlanta, Cinespace is acquiring 360,000 square feet and 13 sound stages, which recently underwent expansion with new office and support spaces, as well as three new purpose-built sound stages over 21,000 square feet each. The facility is the homebase of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Locally, Screen Gems has been quiet since early March, due to the writer’s strike that shuttered the only production filming in town: “The Untitled J+L Project.” At August’s groundbreaking for the expansion of another studio in town, Dark Horse, Wilmington Film Commission director Johnny Griffin said calls were still coming in for when the strikes were over.

The sale announcement is made as the Writers Guild of America reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers midnight Wednesday. The deal is good through May 2026 and includes a 5% minimum pay increase upon contract ratification. It will be followed by a 7.5% bump over the next two years.

The Screen Actors Guild — American Federation of Television and Radio Artists strike is still ongoing.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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