Starting in the 1980s, long before filming took off in Charleston and Atlanta, Wilmington was given the nickname “Wilmywood” for its many television shows and movies based in the coastal North Carolina city. It was thanks in part to the EUE/Screen Gems studio.
Some are classics, while others you may have forgotten about. This is by no means an exhaustive list. For more television shows and movies filmed in Wilmington, visit the Wilmington Film Commission.
Television Shows Filmed in Wilmington
Dozens of television shows have been filmed in Wilmington ranging from dramas to comedies to science fiction.
One of the top teen dramas of all time, Dawson’s Creek tells of a group of friends that deal with unrequited love and family struggles. James Van Der Beek, Joshua Jackson, Katie Holmes, and Michelle Williams starred.
While the show was set in Cape Cod, it was filmed in greater Wilmington, including at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Airlie Gardens, the Old City Market, the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial Park, and Wrightsville Beach.
Eastbound and Down
In Eastbound and Down, a washed-up major league baseball player returns to his hometown to become a middle school PE teacher. The irreverent comedy stars Danny McBride, Steve Little, and Katy Mixon with guest stars like Will Ferrell.
The show is set in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina but was filmed in Wilmington at Screen Gems studio, Jungle Rapids Family Fun Park, a local high school, and a government building.
A former addict is released from prison on “good behavior” but goes back to her hustling ways to get back custody of her son. But she comes up against a handsome hitman that throws a wrench in her plans. Michelle Dockery stars with Juan Diego Botto.
The show filmed throughout Wilmington, including at Blue Post Billiards, the site of the drag show, and the Carolina Marine Terminal.
Hart of Dixie
The series Hart of Dixie is about a young doctor who doesn’t get into the residency programs she wants but is left a medical practice in Alabama by a mysterious man. She goes to live in the small town, with her big-city ways clashing against the slower pace.
Rachel Bilson stars alongside Jaime King, Cress Williams, and Wilson Bethel. It was filmed primarily in Los Angeles but secondary shots were filmed in Wilmington, including at the campus of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, the Village Market, and a home on South 2nd Street.
Filming took place at Screen Gems studio, along with a Sunset Park area home that was used as the exterior for Matlock’s house, and the Carolina Apartments. The Lennon Federal Courthouse Building was also used.
One Tree Hill
Two half-brothers form a rivalry on their high school basketball team, competing for star status and a love interest. The teen drama stars Chad Michael Murray, James Lafferty, Bethany Joy Lenz, Sophia Bush, and Hilarie Burton.
Many of the filming locations are still around Wilmington, including the table by the Riverwalk, Bellamy Mansion, and Blue Post Billiards. The basketball “River Court” was formerly near the USS Carolina but was demolished after filming.
The spooky series based on the Washington Irving tale brings Ichabod Crane to the modern age to help a police officer solve a crime. Tom Mison stars alongside Orlando Jones and Nicole Beharie.
Memorable filming locations include the historic Graystone Inn and Brooklyn Arts Center, a converted church. The Historic New Hanover County Courthouse was even used as Sleepy Hollow Sheriff’s Department. They also filmed in New Bern and Salisbury.
Movies Filmed in Wilmington
The big screen loves Wilmington for its diverse backgrounds. You might be surprised at which of your favorite movies were filmed here!
In David Lynch’s iconic Blue Velvet, a college student finds a severed human ear in a field. The police become involved, which implicates a nightclub singer. Curious about the case, he breaks into her apartment while she is at work and finds out more than he bargained for.
Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern star in the film. Filming took place at the Screen Gems studio, at private homes, and the Wilmington Police Headquarters.
Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood
Based on the book of the same name, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is about a fraught relationship between a mother and daughter. The Ya Yas, her mom’s oldest friends, kidnap her and give her a scrapbook about their wild adventures, hoping to mend their relationship.
The film stars Sandra Bullock, Maggie Smith, Ashley Judd, James Garner, and Ellen Burstyn. Specific scenes were filmed at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach and Orton Plantation in Winnabow. The lingerie car scene took place on Dow Road.
Empire Records follows the lives of the crazy and troubled employees of a run-down records store. Owner Joe is having a bad day after employee Lucas gambles all the store’s money away, a washed-up musician visits and the store is about to be turned into a chain.
The movie made stars of actors Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Robin Tunney and Ethan Embry, who appeared alongside Debi Mazar and Anthony LaPaglia. The building that was used as the record store is now the Rebellion restaurant.
A couple who participated in a medical experiment finds out that their daughter is pyrokinetic in the movie based on the book by Stephen King. It stars a young Drew Barrymore alongside Martin Sheen and Heather Locklear.
Firestarter was the first movie filmed in Wilmington, turning the city into the film hub it is today. Filming took place at Wilmington International Airport and Orton Plantation, along with Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Park.
Nicholas Sparks Movies
Just about every movie based on a Nicholas Sparks book has been filmed at least partially in the city, including The Longest Ride, A Walk to Remember, Safe Haven, The Choice, Nights in Rodanthe, and Message in a Bottle.
Popular Wilmington filming locations for Nicholas Sparks films include the Cameron Art Museum, Fort Fisher, and Airlie Gardens, along with nearby Southport.
A man comes back to life a year after he and his fiance are murdered with the help of a crow. He becomes a vigilante and seeks revenge on the gang of killers. The movie stars Brandon Lee, son of martial arts master Bruce Lee.
Filming took place in the inland town of Castle Hayne as well as at the Wilmington Screen Gems studio, where Lee was tragically killed in an on-set accident.
Sleeping with the Enemy
In Sleeping with the Enemy, a woman fakes her own death to get away from her controlling and abusive husband, but somehow he still is able to track her down. He comes after her in hopes of killing her once and for all. Julia Roberts and Patrick Bergin star.
Wilmington area scenes were filmed at Shell Island Resort Hotel in Wrightsville Beach, the New Hanover County Fairgrounds, and Kure Beach.
Weekend at Bernie’s
In the cult hit Weekend at Bernie’s, a pair of unlikely employees at a corporation are invited by their boss to spend the weekend at his beach house, but he really plans on having them killed. Instead, the boss is killed and the duo pretends he’s still alive while the mafia tries to finish him off.
Andrew McCarthy, Jonathan Silverman, and Catherine Mary Stewart star. The beach house was constructed for filming near the North Carolina Aquarium and was demolished afterward. Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach were also used.
We’re the Millers
A drug dealer recruits his neighbor and other misfits from around town to pose as his family as he smuggles marijuana across the border from Mexico in We’re the Millers. Jennifer Anniston, Jason Sudekis, Emma Roberts, Will Poulter, and Ed Helms star.
Filming took place all over the city, including at 420 Market Street, the Wilmington Convention Center, Port City Java, and City Limits Saloon.