REGIONALREPORT WesternHollywood plays the quiet game
Publicity is integral in making a movie a hit. But the studio behind the adaptation of a best-selling book that began filming in May in an abandoned mill village near Hildebran is forcing officials to keep quiet. “I’m unaware of a film called The Hunger Games being shot in the village,” says an official of the N.C. Film Office, which is under a nondisclosure agreement with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. “Do you have another name for it?” (Lionsgate has given the movie the code name Artemis during filming.)
It’s too early to quantify the economic impact shooting had on the area around Hildebran. It’s easier to guess at the concessions the film will receive from the state. The movie has a budget of $75 million, according to The Wall Street Journal. Film productions that spend at least $250,000 in North Carolina get a 25% tax credit, capped at $20 million.
Valdese Economic Development Investment Corp., which serves the Hildebran area, hopes the film will be good advertising for the Henry River mill village, a collection of decrepit buildings in the eastern part of Burke County. “What we need is a creative developer to come in and see the town’s potential and maybe convert those old buildings into gift shops or something,” says a VEDIC official who Lionsgate asked not to speak with the media. The village’s decay probably attracted the production considering The Hunger Games is set in a dystopian future (think the opposite of utopian).
At the end of May, production moved to Shelby, taking up residence in vacant warehouses. There, economic benefits were anecdotally available. “They used local retail for their props, stayed in local hotels, ate in local restaurants,” says Jackie Sibley, Cleveland County director of tourism. Still, security was tight. “At one point, I took my cellphone out on set to check messages, and there was panic. They were like that about anything that could take pictures.”
The Hunger Games will continue shooting across the state this summer, and it was recently announced that Lionsgate will turn the series by Suzanne Collins — it’s a trilogy — into four movies. If so and its multimillion-dollar budget returns, The Hunger Games might be a secret worth keeping.