Canadian studios eye Loonie drop


TORONTO -- Canadian studio operators on Monday expressed relief as the Canadian dollar slipped below parity with the U.S. greenback for the first time in two months.

"It's a move in the right direction," Ken Ferguson, president of Toronto Film Studios, said of the reduced impact on the budgets of Los Angeles producers shooting here.

"After seeing it above par for so long, now it feels insulting that it's below par, but I guess we'll get over that," he added with a touch of gallows humor.

The loonie hit a record CAN$1.10 in value in early November compared with the greenback before it began to retreat in tandem with global oil and gold prices.

The recent rise in the value of the loonie followed two decades in which U.S. producers enjoyed huge cost savings when shooting in Canada on the strength of a once-strong greenback.

The recent weakness in the greenback, compared with the Canadian dollar, led Los Angeles producers to shift projects to southern U.S. states and other foreign locales in search of lower production costs and more generous tax rebates and other incentives.

On Monday morning, the Canadian dollar stood at US$99.78 after standing on par Friday.

Jim Mirkopoulos, vp facility management at Cinespace Film Studios in Toronto, cautioned that the Canadian dollar's recent retreat has had less effect on the ebb and flow of U.S. foreign location shooting here than the current Hollywood labor situation.

"We do anticipate a few shows that decide to squeak in before the possible (U.S.) actors strike," Mirkopoulos said, referring to a June 30 deadline for the completion of studio and network projects.

Projects set for a Canadian shoot include the Hilary Swank-starring Amelia Earhart biopic, to be produced by Toronto-based Don Carmody (Chicago).

Carmody said the feature, to shoot in Toronto for eight weeks beginning in mid-March, followed by two weeks each in Nova Scotia and Hawaii, will wrap before the June 30 deadline.

Ron Bass penned the script and Kevin Hyman will direct the movie about the famed American pilot who went missing over the Pacific in 1937 while attempting to fly solo around the globe.

Given the current fluctuations in the Canadian dollar, Carmody is not optimistic about Toronto's fortunes after the major studios complete their current round of labor negotiations.

"After June, it won't be too good unless the dollar goes down or the tax credit goes up. Something has to give," he said.