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Major Hollywood studios and streamers needing original content helped lift Ontario’s film and TV industry to a record $3.15 billion in total production activity in 2022.
Ontario Creates, which markets the province in Hollywood, reported on March 21 that foreign film and TV production expenditures across the Canadian province last year reached $1.94 billion, just up from $1.91 billion in overall expenditures in 2021. And that’s well up from the pre-pandemic $1.12 billion spent in local film and TV expenditures in 2019 in and around Toronto as major studios and streamers invested heavily in content for new direct-to-consumer platforms. (The rest of the $3.15 billion spend was from Canada-based producers.)
“I’m excited to see that the growth is continuing,” Karen Thorne-Stone, president and CEO of Ontario Creates, told The Hollywood Reporter. At the same time, film and TV production shot locally in the province this year faces the twin challenges of a possible U.S. writers strike as the Writers Guild of America prepares to open negotiations with U.S. producers, and Hollywood eyes less original content spending overall to improve the economics of streaming.
“The next few months are difficult to judge based on labor negotiations and also a contraction at some of the studios south of the border. But what’s always encouraging about Ontario is that we also have a very strong domestic industry and we saw the rise of that in terms of production volume over the last year,” says Justin Cutler, the Ontario Film Commissioner at Ontario Creates.
Going into 2023, peak TV continues to be good to Ontario, with 70 foreign, mostly Hollywood series having accounted for $1.66 billion of the overall expenditures in the province last year, up from $1.58 billion in budgets for 77 foreign series in calendar 2021.
Other American series to have shot in Toronto and across the province include The Handmaid’s Tale, Reacher, The Umbrella Academy, Accused and Ginny & Georgia.
With Hollywood movie production happening mostly in Vancouver on the West Coast, foreign film production accounted for $226.4 million of production activity in the province last year, against a year-earlier $161.8 million in budgetary spending. That included Oscar-winning Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, which is typical of U.S. shoots in often filming in more than one corner of the province beyond Toronto, whether in Hamilton, North Bay or Sudbury.
Other U.S. indie movies to have shot in Ontario last year include upcoming titles like Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla and Fingernails, starring Jeremy Allen White, Annie Murphy and Riz Ahmed.
As Hollywood production increasingly dominates film and TV shooting in the province, local production in 2022 came to $1.2 billion in total budgetary spending, or around 38 percent of the overall activity last year. That marked an upswing on the $965.4 million in domestic film and TV production dollars left behind in Ontario in 2021.
Domestic production levels exclude TV commercials, music videos broadcaster-in-house production and other local filmmaking expenditures that were not channeled through Ontario Creates’ film fund and other initiatives, and together are estimated to have added another $1.4 billion in production activity last year.
As streaming giants like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon make big bets on Ontario as a long-term production base, the province continues to add local soundstages to usher in still more Hollywood projects. The province currently has around 3.8 million square feet of stage space.
Another 2.4 million square feet of studio space is set for completion over the next few years in Toronto and the surrounding areas, up 60 percent from what is currently available.
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