WILMINGTON, NC-Hotels are increasing their meeting space regularly here. The movie industry continues to grow. Travelers are spending more. All this activity is prompting the Cape Fear Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau to consider pushing for the development of a full-blown convention center.

The bureau hopes to have a decision by year end. Wilmington is 150 miles southeast of Downtown Charlotte.

A major attraction in this coastal city of 50,000 residents is the EUE Screen Gems Studios, arguably the largest facility of its kind east of Los Angeles. Filmmaking activities account for almost 15% of the area’s total economic structure. The studio has nine sound stages totaling 115,000 sf of stage space and offers a three-block, four-story urban studio backlot fashioned after New York City streetscapes. Additional stages and production offices are available at the nearby Wilmington Film Studios.

Despite the extreme weather in the area last year, travelers spent about $295 million in New Hanover County, a 14.5% increase from 1998, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. The new eight-story Holiday Inn SunSpree resort at nearby Wrightsville Beach opened this year with 185 guest rooms, 8,500 sf of meeting and convention space, five pools, oceanfront restaurants, a health and fitness center, an indoor market, and activity centers for guests and children. The Wilmington Hilton recently added 100 rooms and increased its meeting space by nearly 20,000 sf.

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