Equity players: Alberta takes stake in TV series

Lionsgate show to relocate to province

Alberta likes the idea of Lionsgate relocating one of its TV series there so much, the province is taking an equity stake in the project.

Patti Tucker, Edmonton's film commissioner, said Thursday that a new two-year production deal will see Vancouver-based Lionsgate shoot 26 episodes of a still-to-be-decided TV series in Edmonton over the next two years.

As part of a financial incentive package, the province of Alberta will invest CAN$5.4 million in the TV series, and the city of Edmonton will provide another CAN$3.5 million. In return, Edmonton will receive a 15% equity stake in the TV series.

Lionsgate will decide by the end of July which of its series will relocate to Edmonton. But it is thought that either "The Dresden Files," a detective fantasy series starring Paul Blackthorne airing on the Sci Fi Channel, or Showtime's "Masters of Horror" will make the move.

Tucker said Lionsgate cold-called Edmonton last year, looking for financial incentives in oil-rich Alberta to help shift a TV series to a new locale.

Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel subsequently met in Washington with Lionsgate executive vp Mark Manuel to discuss terms for a possible relocation. "(Manuel) wasn't just looking for tax credits. He was looking for a business deal," Tucker said.

A Lionsgate spokesman said the identity of the TV series bound for Edmonton could not be disclosed yet, but that it would be a TV series currently in production and airing.

Lionsgate has done similar production deals in New Mexico, Louisiana and Pennsylvania in recent years to trim production costs on projects.

Edmonton city officials took the idea of investing in a TV series to the provincial government, and a deal with Lionsgate was hammered out.

Tucker said the Lionsgate series will reinvigorate a local production sector that has not seen a TV series shoot in Edmonton in five years.

Once Lionsgate decides on a TV series to shoot in Edmonton, crews will be hired, with shooting expected to begin in September.

Alberta already has a production fund for film and TV production, but Tucker said its investments are capped and will not allow the province to compete to snag big-budget Hollywood TV series.