NBCUniversal Joins Canadian Sound Stage Rush

Covert Affairs (USA)

Where we left off: Where is Ben Mercer (Eion Bailey)? The love of CIA rookie Annie Walker’s (Piper Perabo) life -- who has been MIA for most of the season -- returned to the agency, but didn’t get into the helicopter at the end of the mission. And with Annie’s boss Joan (Kari Matchett) potentially taking over as head of DCS, what does that mean for Arthur (Peter Gallagher)?

Premiere date: Tuesday, June 7 at 10 p.m.

As Hollywood North continues to boom, despite Canada's high dollar, the major studios jostle for space for film and TV location shoots.

TORONTO - Canada’s film tax credits may be familiar and seemingly permanent to the major studios, compared to the instability of film and production tax breaks in rival U.S. states.

But suddenly sound stage availability for location film and TV shoots is an issue in a sizzling Hollywood North.

With studio space at a premium in Vancouver and Toronto, major Los Angeles producers are booking prime stages for projects not yet greenlit, or scrambling for alternative space.

“Quite a number of larger producers have booked stages, and then they don’t put anything in there. It’s just to guarantee the space,” Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO of William F. White International, a major production equipment supplier nationwide, said of the crush for stages and production office space north of the border.

NBCUniversal, which previously shot SyFy series like Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Eureka and Sanctuary in Vancouver, will have five series shooting in Toronto this spring.

The local slate includes the latest cycles of Alphas, Covert Affairs, Suits and Warehouse 13, and the pilot for the TV-online hybrid Defiance.

Bronfman, who’s getting ready to host his annual February Freeze production technology trade show in Toronto on February 8 at his newly-opened William F. White Center complex in west Toronto, said major studio activity in Canada is strong, despite the Canadian and American dollars spending most of 2011 at parity.

The difference looks to be generous Canadian tax breaks for foreign producers.

“Vancouver had an off year last year. But Vancouver will come back this year,” Bronfman said, referring to uncertainty over the pending elimination of the harmonized sales tax in British Columbia.

Elsewhere, Sony Pictures is piling into Montreal this year, with plans to shoot the $175 million Singularity picture in fall 2012, ahead of a May 2013 release.

Sony Pictures will also produce the upcoming sequel to The Smurfs and its Houdini project in Montreal as it takes advantage of Quebec’s generous all-spend tax credit and additional digital media tax incentives for live action/CG hybrids.