What will Iron Man 3 mean for Wilmington and North Carolina?

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  • Double Negative/ Marvel Entertainment
Last Thursday, Chris Cooney, co-owner and COO of EUE/Screen Gems studios in Wilmington, confirmed at a press conference that Marvel Studios would be shooting Iron Man 3 at their studios.

Yes, there’s a really good chance Wilmington locals will see Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson and other A-listers who will return to film the third chapter in Marvel’s chief superhero franchise, which will be directed by Shane Black (who directed Downey in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang).

Needless to say, local fanboys, like Raleigh film blogger and comics aficionado Isaac Weeks, are curious to find out what the movie will be about.

“There’s always the rumor/hope that they might do the adaptation of the ‘Demon in a Bottle’ storyline,” Weeks said, referring to the Iron Man comic’s famed subplot from the ’70s where Tony Stark became a raging alcoholic.

“He drank a little bit in [Iron Man 2]. That’s as close as they’re gonna get to it in a movie, you know. They’re not gonna base a $100 million-budgeted, Hollywood film on a superhero being a drunk.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Marvel considered filming in Los Angeles (where the first two were shot), Michigan and New Mexico. But executives were enticed by North Carolina’s 25 percent tax credit. (California offers a 25 percent tax credit, but excludes big-budget flicks like Iron Man 3.) Not to mention that EUE/Screen Gems boasts one of the largest sound stages in the world with Stage 10, a 37,500 square-foot-space with a 60-by-60-by-10.5-foot water tank.

Aaron Syrett, director of the North Carolina Film Office, confirms that both the incentives and the sound stages played a role in Marvel’s decision.

“It’s a large film which requires a lot of infrastructure and large sound stages,” Syrett says. “I guess all those things added up for us in the end.”

But EUE/ Screen Gems, which has had such projects ranging from Blue Velvet to Dawson’s Creek memorably shoot at its studios over the decades, has been home to several high-profile projects as of late, building its rep as a studio where bigger-scale productions are welcome. The much-anticipated screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novel The Hunger Games and the Dwayne Johnson vehicle Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (the sequel to Journey to the Center of the Earth), are two projects that have filmed at the EUE/Screen Gems stages.

Wilmington-based camera operator Bo Webb feels this will bring more big-budget business to the state.

“I think it’s going to be great,” says Webb, whose credits include The Notebook, Eastbound and Down and One Tree Hill. “Right now, a lot of the shows like that end up in New Mexico, because of their soundstages there and because of their film incentive. So, I think it’ll help us be more competitive.”

But will the production of an expensive blockbuster (Iron Man 2 reportedly cost $170 million to produce) in the Tar Heel state influence the local economy? In the press release for this announcement, the big line was that Iron Man 3 will create jobs and brings millions to the state, creating an estimated economic impact of more than $80 million over a 10-month period.

Syrett says preproduction hiring won’t start until January, with principal shooting to occur in late spring. (The movie is slated for a May 2013 release.) Webb definitely believes that jobs and money will start rolling in when the film gets under way.

“I think that the production itself will definitely create some jobs,” says Webb. “I think that a lot of local people are gonna get hired on it, especially people in the trades like construction, riggers—that kind of thing. You know, a big production like that also does bring in a lot of people from out of town to work on the film. But those people have to be put up in hotels and they eat out every night. So, you know, it’s not just the jobs that will benefit the local economy.”

Weeks says that while the production is exciting, expectations should be kept in perspective.

“Look, I am psyched for it, because, like I said, it’s just neat that they’re filming it in Wilmington, in North Carolina,” says Weeks.

“Anytime that they film something on the coast or anywhere that you’ve been, you can kind of point at it and be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been there.’ But I just think that people are getting—if you’re getting excited for any other reason than that, you’re getting excited for the wrong reason. It’s not gonna save the state.”

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