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Ontario has decided to leave Hollywood film and TV shoots on local soundstages untouched as the province declares a state of emergency amid a resurgent coronavirus outbreak.
“As further lockdown measures were announced by Premier (Doug) Ford today on January 12, film and television productions and post-production projects will continue to operate with no changes to the previously reported guidelines presented in the province-wide shutdown currently taking place,” the Toronto Film Office said in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
On Tuesday, Ontario premier Ford outlined more stringent measures to reduce a surging COVID-19 infection rate across the province, Canada’s biggest media market. Film studios in Ontario have been allowed to remain open, with restrictions like a limit of 10 performers and no studio audiences on set remaining in place.
That limit does not apply to the number of crew members, stunt riggers, stunt coordinators and stand-ins currently allowed on an Ontario film set, as long as they wear masks and can safely physically distance.
In addition, singers and musicians playing wind instruments will be required to be separated by plexiglass barriers. The latest measures to curtail the spread of COVID-19 on film sets comes as Ontario imposed a stay-at-home order on the wider community to run for 28 days, with exceptions only for those doing essential work or shopping for groceries.
“Folks, soon there will be some really dark days ahead, some turbulent waters, but we will get through this,” premier Ford told a press conference as he warned of surging COVID-19 cases and hospitals threatened with being overwhelmed in February.
Despite the surge in COVID-19 infection cases, Hollywood production in Ontario has returned to pre-pandemic levels of activity as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and new U.S. streaming services shoot new originals to compete against traditional players like Disney, HBO, NBC and CBS also backing new streaming platforms.
The latest announcement on safety measures for film sets in the province follows Ontario health advisors recommending a tightening of restrictions for COVID-19 hot spots, which includes Toronto and southern Ontario, where the number of virus cases is surging.
Hollywood production reopening in and around Toronto after the holiday hiatus is expected to take longer and not pick up pace until mid-January as major studios and streamers factor in the current case surge and return travel quarantine requirements.
“In general, production return dates were pre-planned in December. Extended post-holiday breaks were prudently considered in advance of the holidays in an effort to maintain safe sets,” Ontario Film Commissioner Justin Cutler tells THR.
“Many productions also factored in break-time as Ontario crews had been working non-stop since late summer and through the fall. Some productions have now decided to pause and re-calibrate for the new 10-person on set limitation as part of their health and safety protocols,” Cutler added.
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