U.S. runaway prod'n down in Ontario

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TORONTO -- U.S. runaway production in Ontario continued its downward slide in 2006, the Ontario Media Development Corp. reported Tuesday.

The provincial government agency said total foreign, mostly U.S. movie and TV shooting fell to 32 projects worth CAN$338.7 million ($287 million) in the year to Dec. 31.

That compares with 41 shoots worth CAN$458.8 million completed locally by foreign producers in 2005. Last year was down from a record CAN$574.4 million left by U.S. producers in Ontario in 2002, when major studios and independent producers completed 69 shoots locally, in large part to stockpile product before a threatened industry shutdown in Hollywood.

The Ontario provincial government in late 2004 raised lucrative tax credits on offer to foreign and domestic producers to help offset the impact of a rising Canadian dollar and increased competition from rival foreign production locales like southern U.S. states and Eastern Europe.

Despite a rebound in film and TV production activity in British Columbia last year, Ontario still has a way to go before U.S. runaway production activity returns to the heyday of "Hollywood North" during the go-go 1990s.

The OMDC said 14 features were shot in Ontario last year by foreign producers, worth CAN$218.2 million ($184.7 million) in production dollars, including the sci-fi thriller "Jumper," starring Samuel L. Jackson and directed by Doug Liman.

That activity was down from 22 movies shot by foreign producers locally in 2005, worth CAN$317.4 million in total budgets.

U.S. TV shoots in Ontario came to CAN$75.2 million ($63.7 million) in budgets in 2006, up from a year-earlier CAN$70 million in activity.

But total budgets for 10 mostly U.S. telefilms, miniseries and pilots came to CAN$45.4 million ($38.5 million) in 2006, compared with 14 projects worth CAN$80.4 million a year ago.

The OMDC gave no analysis with its 2006 Ontario production numbers, which came as the Canadian dollar continued to increase in value compared with the U.S. greenback and as Los Angeles producers did more business in Vancouver.

Higher indigenous film and TV production in Ontario helped offset the collapse in foreign shooting last year.

Total domestic production came to 206 projects worth CAN$549.4 million ($466 million) last year, compared with 150 projects that left behind CAN$475.1 million in spending in 2005.

The biggest jump was in 97 TV series worth CAN$332.7 million ($282.2 million) shot by local producers in Ontario last year, compared with 73 series worth CAN$279.5 million shot in 2005.

The result was total Ontario film and TV production activity in 2006 rounding out to 238 projects worth CAN$888.1 million ($752.2 million) in production activity, compared with 191 projects worth CAN$933.8 million in 2005.

This year could bring yet more bad news for the Ontario film and TV productions sector as U.S. producers continue to stay away from Toronto amid the continuing actors strike.
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