Before Shuttering, Hollywood Production in Canada Had Hit New High

Toronto March 24 2020

Film and TV spending in the country by foreign producers rose $151 million to $4.86 billion last year.

Hollywood location shooting in Canada in 2019 hit a new high, according to a report from local indie film and TV producers.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic slammed into the Canadian production sector, shuttering all U.S. film and TV shoots in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal and sending anxious Americans back across a now-sealed border for shelter.

The Canadian Media Producers Association, representing indie producers, on Thursday issued their Profile 2019 report that reveals total foreign, mostly U.S., film and TV production in Canada last year rose by $151 million in spending, or 3.2 percent, to an all-time high of $4.86 billion.

Broken out, total foreign movie production in 2019 jumped by $245 million (15.7 percent) to $1.8 billion, with recent Hollywood tentpole shoots including It: Chapter Two, Midway and X-Men: Dark Phoenix. And overall foreign TV series production, including streaming dramas like See, The Handmaid's Tale and Star Trek: Discovery, slipped 1.8 percent to $2.74 billion, after a year-earlier rise in volume by $1 billion in 2017.

But despite Hollywood's arms race to take on Netflix being good business for Canada in 2019, foreign film and TV production in March of this year pulled a vanishing act as the coronavirus pandemic spread, film studios emptied and Americans returned home.

In better times, record Hollywood location shooting in Canada last year was underpinned by streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access and Hulu setting up production hubs in Vancouver and Toronto, only to be followed by new rivals like Disney+, AppleTV+ and HBO Max also eyeing currency savings and generous tax breaks when their originals are shot north of the border.

Both Ontario and Quebec saw their Hollywood production activity grow last year, while British Columbia, though remaining the biggest destination for American location shoots in Canada, saw its volume of foreign production fall by 7.4 percent to $2.81 billion in 2019, according to the report.

The total film and TV production expenditures for 2019 in Canada came to $9.3 billion, with the Canadian content spend last year rising 8 percent to $3.22 billion.