Canada Faces $1.23 Billion Hit From Hollywood Production Shutdown

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Toronto on March 24

"These numbers should serve as a wake-up call for what's at stake," Canadian indie producers warn amid talks to reopen the industry as the COVID-19 crisis seems to be receding.

The coronavirus pandemic caused Hollywood production north of the border to come to a screeching halt in mid-March, and the economic toll from dark soundstages and idle Canadian cast and crew is mounting.

The Canadian Media Producers Association on Tuesday released a COVID-19 impact report that estimates $1.757 billion (US$1.23 billion) in Hollywood production spending in Canada will be lost if the North American industry shutdown lasts until June 30.

And that lost production volume from major studios and streamers like Netflix and Disney not shooting locally during the busy spring and summer months has put at risk the jobs of about 81,000 local cast and crew, says the report by Nordicity for the CMPA, representing indie producers.

The estimate of lost or disrupted foreign location shooting in Canada due to the COVID-19 crisis is based on seasonal trends for Hollywood production over the last five years. After the film and TV industry on both sides of the border put themselves on hold as a safety precaution, informal talks have begun between content producers and unions on when the Americans will be able to resume location shooting north of the border as health conditions and restrictions allow.

"These numbers should serve as a wake-up call for what's at stake, and motivate us all to work together to ensure the industry can get back on its feet as quickly as possible once this crisis ends," CMPA president and CEO Reynolds Mastin said in a statement.

Before Hollywood producers did a vanishing act in mid-March to shelter back home, foreign location shooting in Canada in 2019 hit a new high. The CMPA in an earlier Profile 2019 report revealed 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 in Canada 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.