Canadian Studio Giant Expands With Toronto Film Facility (Exclusive)

General atmosphere during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival - Getty -H 2018
Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images

Whites Studios will open four soundstages in the city to meet rising demand by Hollywood streaming giants for local production facilities.

William F. White International, the Canadian film and TV production equipment rental giant, is set to open a new Toronto film studio, comprising four go-to soundstages for the production of new originals by Hollywood streaming giants.

WFW chairman and CEO Paul Bronfman, who is also chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, told The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday that the 152,000 square foot Whites Studio Edwards Blvd. facility, set to open in January by his Whites Studios division, aims to ease a shortage of local soundstages by landing a single Hollywood studio as a long-term leaseholder.

"This is new incremental business for Toronto. We're not taking any space from other operators. We will be bringing new business into the city," Bronfman insisted.

Netflix's launching of a production hub in Toronto by locking up eight soundstages — four each at Pinewood Toronto Studios and Cinespace Film Studios — has sparked a local space race by Hollywood streaming giants scrambling for soundstages on which to create new high-quality film and TV content.

Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets ahead of launching Disney+ and taking full control of Hulu — and rival streaming services set to come from WarnerMedia, Apple and Comcast — has greatly expanded the volume of foreign location shooting in Ontario.

To meet that demand, Whites Studios Edwards Blvd. will be split between four soundstages comprising 25,600 square feet for the largest space, another two at 23,000 square feet and 15,360 square feet, respectively, and a fourth, smaller stage at 9,000 square feet to accommodate motion capture and other virtual production.

For its first Toronto facility, Whites Studios, which already has five studio complexes just outside Vancouver, will feature around 21,000 square feet of production office space and another 35,000 square feet for wardrobe and makeup, mill, paint and set storage services.

The addition of the Toronto film facility will bring Whites Studios' total studio space to around 750,000 square feet.

Rick Perotto, Whites vp business development, said the planned Toronto facility has already been shopped to Los Angeles producers ahead of landing a tenant, likely a Hollywood studio. "We're excited about this space. We have great relationships down in Los Angeles, we spent a lot of time studying and discussing our clients' needs and we feel that we hit the nail on the head with this space," he said.

With the vacancy rate for Toronto warehouse space at under 1 percent, finding suitable properties in the city for a studio conversion remains difficult, but Whites Studios is eyeing additional new studio facilities for Toronto.

And as Ontario is on track for another record-breaking year for foreign location shooting, local studio operators are set to launch an estimated 1.8 million square feet of new soundstages over the next two years. Pinewood Toronto Studios earlier unveiled plans to double in size as the Star Trek TV series for CBS All Access already fills its stages.

Cinespace Film Studios is also virtually filled to capacity, and expanding, after hosting shoots for Guillermo del Toro's awards-season contender The Shape of Water and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale.

And CBS Television Studios earlier unveiled plans to build and open a TV and film production hub just outside Toronto to feed content to its CBS All-Access streaming service.