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Toronto has traditionally been successful at attracting lower-budget productions, which often came to the city looking to stretch their budgets as far as possible. But the city lacks the big soundstages and studio facilities to accommodate a blockbuster in the $100–150 million range.That’s about to change. This summer, construction will begin on Filmport—a new megastudio in the city’s portlands that will rival the big Hollywood studios, and put Toronto in a whole new league.Ken Ferguson, president of Toronto Film Studios, explained that “we want to be in the blockbuster business. And we want it to be a market maker, not a market taker.”The 45-acre site, east of the downtown core, will include corporate offices for film producers, postproduction and animation firms, union and guild offices, entertainment legal and accounting firms, payroll, casting and talent agencies, advertising production companies and other film and media entities—along with restaurants, cafés, convenience retail shops, rental shops, health and fitness facilities and other services.It will feature 14 state-of-the-art sound stages, including a massive 45,000-square-foot Mega-Stage, big enough to house a full-sized replica of the Parthenon.“We want to be able to bring films to Toronto that presently aren’t able to come here because the stages just aren’t large enough,” explained Ferguson. “But now we’re getting into sizes that are not readily available even in LA.”The studio will have its own docks for a marine backlot that will enable producers to bring a submarine or other large vessel right onto the lot.“People chuckle at that, but there have been a couple of submarine movies in the last few years,” said Ferguson. “Obviously the ability to shoot in or on the water, or to bring a ship right up to within feet of the studio offers some advantages.”The Technicolor Toronto and Deluxe labs are nearby, along with numerous other facilities and rental houses.“The whole idea behind this concept is to create what the city is calling a convergence district, so it’s an opportunity to bring all of the various elements for film and TV production into one district of the city. We’re calling the district Filmport.”Phase one of the Studio complex will comprise six sound stages totalling 123,000 square feet (including the megastage), plus 110,000 square feet of production-support space, including production offices, wardrobe, shops and a commissary.Shops for lumber milling, painting, metalwork, plaster and vacu-form work, and set fabrication will be located near the east end of the site for ease of truck access.When completed Filmport is expected to draw an additional $600 million in production spending to Toronto, which, for a city that is currently doing about $750 million a year in major productions, will have a massive impact.“I think that will encourage business that we haven’t had in the past,” said Toronto film commissioner Rhonda Silverstone.But is the city’s post infrastructure up to the task?“The talent is here. That’s something we have in Canada that’s quite strong. The expertise and the skills are here, and the equipment is here,” said Ferguson. “What may not be here yet is the confidence of a major studio to do their postproduction here as opposed to taking it back to LA. I think more and more post will be done here, but I don’t think it’ll be instantaneous.”

Written by Scott Lehane

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