Hollywood concern at soaring Canadian dollar

But generous tax breaks still attracting LA productions

TORONTO -- As the Canadian dollar surges towards parity with the American greenback, local industry players are polishing their tax credits and other financial incentives for Los Angeles producers before they head back home.

Hans Fraikin, head of the Quebec Film and Television Council, which promotes Quebec as a shooting location, said the rapid appreciation of the Canadian loonie to around 97 cents currently threatens diminishing financial returns for Hollywood studios as they shoot north of the border.

"It really hurts," Fraikin conceded Thursday, as he looked to Quebec's competitiveness against rival U.S. locales like Louisiana and New Mexico.

But he pointed to Quebec recently doubling its tax break for foreign producers by offering a 25% rebate on all local production spending as a cushion against the soaring loonie.

"Even though they (Los Angeles producers) get less of a rebate on the dollar, they're still getting the 25% or 30% offset from whatever they spend," Fraikin argued.

Neighboring Ontario similarly goosed its foreign film tax credit to a 25% all-spend this summer to mitigate the impact of the falling value of the American greenback, compared to the Canadian dollar.

According to the Ontario Media Development Corp., which promotes the province in Hollywood, a $10 million movie shoot where 65% of the overall budget was spent locally will secure a $1.21 million tax credit under the 25% all-spend offset, against $812,500 under the old labor-only tax credit.

"Depending on the production, it is likely to represent a 50% increase or more," OMDC president and CEO Karen Thorne-Stone said.

"When combined with the other strong incentives in Ontario including the quality of talent, depth of crews, world-class studios, and award-winning animation, special effects and post-production capacity, Ontario is a more attractive location than ever," she added.

Toronto's Pinewood Toronto Studios is currently hosting a shoot for the NBC Universal pilot "Covert Affairs" for USA Networks, John Dowdle's "Devil," part of M. Night Shyamalan's three-film financing/production partnership with Media Rights Capital, production on the ABC series "Happy Town" and another feature, the Italian-Canadian co-production "Looking in Obituaries," directed by Giancarlo Giannini.

Also shooting in Toronto is the Sony Pictures Television-produced Lifetime original movie "Clark Rockefeller," directed by Mikael Solomon and starring Eric McCormack and Sherry Stringfield.