Filmport: Lights are on, but nobody's home

Toronto space has yet to attract Hollywood major

TORONTO -- Filmport, Toronto's mega-studio and a possible white knight for its stranded film-production sector, opened its doors Wednesday with just one problem -- no studio tenant.

Phase 1 of the $60 million studio complex, which comprises seven stages covering 260,000 square feet of space, is so far without a Hollywood major on board as the studio-SAG contract talks in Los Angeles drag on.

Filmport Studios president Ken Ferguson predicts the complex will fill up once the majors reach a new deal with the actors guild.

"In these challenging times for the Toronto film industry, we needed a boost. We hope Filmport can play a role in putting Toronto where it belongs, back on top," he said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mayor David Miller and Canadian director David Cronenberg.

Filmport, which includes a pillar-free 46,500-square-foot stage for effects-heavy studio pictures, already has leased out office space to George A. Romero's "Diary of the Dead 2," which is shooting on location in Toronto.

Additionally, Universal is eyeing Filmport for its "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" project, which is based on a comic by local writer Bryan Lee O'Malley and set in Toronto. But with the Canadian dollar at near-parity with the American greenback, and New York offering a 35% tax credit, Universal producers also are considering the Big Apple as a stand in for Toronto.

Paul Bronfman, chairman of Comweb, which has a near-half stake in Filmport, said that the mega-studio and Toronto will have to work hard to secure big-budget studio shoots after a SAG deal is inked.

"It will be tough. But we'll find a way," Bronfman said.