Foreign On-Location Shooting in Toronto Fell 40 Percent in 2014, Report Says

Pixels Trailer Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Pixels Trailer Still - H 2015

Overall screen-based production in Canada's media hub still hit a record $1.23 billion last year, thanks to surging domestic production.

The city of Toronto's annual production report on Thursday pointed to on-location shooting in Canada's biggest city last year having reached a record CAN$1.23 billion (US$1.01 billion), up 4.3 percent from 2013.

But the report also revealed foreign, mostly Hollywood production in Toronto was down 40 percent in 2014, while domestic production was up by 21 percent over 2013 to record levels. Sony's upcoming action-comedy Pixels, starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James, and Guillermo del Toro's The Strain for FX, shot locally in Toronto last year.

But overall U.S. and foreign productions filmed on location in Toronto last year amounted to CAN$299 million (U.S.$245.2 million) in local budget expenditures, down sharply from CAN$438.8 million (U.S.$360 million) in activity in 2013. Canada's largest city felt the pain as continuing rising costs in Los Angeles for episodic TV in part shrank total budget spending by the major studios last year.

The fall in foreign production was offset by domestic production in Toronto reaching a record CAN$652 million (U.S.$534.8 million) in 2014, as expenditures on Canadian TV series like Saving Hope, Rookie Blue, Orphan Black and Vikings, all of which air in the U.S. and elsewhere internationally, surged.

Toronto also in 2014 saw a big jump in commercial production. Sarah Ker-Hornell, CEO and executive director of FilmOntario, a lobby group for local industry players, applauded the shift to a more consistent domestic production slate in a presentation to city council members.

"Ten years ago domestic volumes were under 40 percent; now they are over 65 percent. This shift has moved the industry away from the highly volatile production service industry, such as Vancouver, to the domestic production/co-production business where IP and copyright remains with Ontario companies," Ker-Hornell said.

Hollywood film and TV shoots also routinely head outside Toronto to northern Ontario to tap regional film tax credit bonuses for added savings.