Hollywood's Slim Down Nicked Ontario in 2013

Christos Kalohoridis/USA Network

U.S. networks shot more episodic TV series like "Covert Affairs" and "Hemlock Grove" in Toronto last year, but escalating costs cut overall budgets.

TORONTO -- U.S. networks feeling the pinch of rising costs for episodic TV shrank total budget spending by Hollywood studios in Ontario last year.

The Ontario Media Development Corp. on Monday reported rich incentives and a falling Canadian dollar helped draw more U.S. network TV series to shoot in the Canadian province in 2013.

But the government agency charged with promoting Ontario in Hollywood also indicated TV budgets were down last year as the cost of episodic TV for global markets escalates.

The result was total film and TV production activity in Ontario came to CAN$1.14 billion in 2013, down from a year-earlier CAN$1.27 billion in overall expenditures by both local and foreign producers.

TV production accounted for CAN$916 million (US$826 million), or 80 percent of overall activity last year.

And the biggest area of growth came from foreign, mostly U.S. TV series, shooting in the province.

Ontario had 23 foreign TV series shoot locally last year, up 28 percent from 18 in 2012.

At the same time, those foreign TV series spent CAN$246.2 million (US$222 million) in the province last year, against CAN$270.6 million (US$243.9 million) in overall budgets in 2012.

The OMDC reported budgets "were down slightly" for foreign TV series due to a trend of fewer episodes being ordered per series.

The Ontario location shoot credits included NBCUniversal's Covert Affairs, Gaumont International's Hemlock Grove and FX's The Strain, from director Guillermo del Toro.

Ontario in recent years has continued to pull Hollywood film and TV shoots across the border, despite a strong Canadian dollar and competition from rival locales like Louisiana and New Mexico.

And there are recent signs that Ontario's 25 percent all-spend film tax credit, combined with a Canadian dollar falling in value compared to the American dollar, is juicing Hollywood production in Ontario even further, especially during the current TV pilot season.

But the OMDC's latest production tally also reveals the province saw overall foreign-film budgets fall in 2013, despite the number of Hollywood feature films shooting in Toronto rising, owing to a lack of blockbuster movies shooting in the province last year.

Total budgets for foreign movies shooting in Ontario fell to CAN$97.7 million (US$88 million) last year, against expenditures of CAN$106.3 million (US$95.8 million) in 2012, as Hollywood studios choose to slim down in the wake of big-budget movie flops.

That slippage was offset by overall spending domestic feature films rising to CAN$134.1 million (US$120.8 million) in 2013, compared to a year-earlier total budgetary spend of CAN$123.1 million (US$110.9 million) by local movie producers.