Netflix Launches Newest Production Hub in Toronto

Pinewood Toronto Studios - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Bell Media

The streaming giant has locked up eight sound stages as it touts 1,850 new jobs created while shooting 'Umbrella Academy' and 'Locke & Key' locally.

Netflix is opening its latest global production hub in Toronto, taking long-term leases on eight sound stages at separate studios to produce its growing film and TV slate while tapping local incentives.

At Pinewood Toronto Studios, Netflix, currently on a spending spree to acquire original content, will lease four sound stages and office space comprising 84,580 square feet, and already is on site with cameras rolling. "They are shooting at incredible speed, and we're open for business. I don't see them slowing down anytime soon," Nanci MacLean, president of Pinewood Toronto Studios, told The Hollywood Reporter.

And at Cinespace Films Studios, Netflix will lease another four sound stages, or around 164,000 square feet of space, when accounting for office and support space. The multi-year lease by Netflix with Cinespace is for Marine Terminal 51 and the Cruise Ship Terminal, a new studio set to open on the city's waterfront in summer 2019.

Cinespace vp Jim Mirkopolous told THR that Netflix using his newest studio to anchor its Toronto production hub underlines long-term stability for an Ontario production sector where American TV series with audience success may run for multiple seasons and TV sets can be be left standing year over year.

"The vast portion of our industry is episodic. We need the local infrastructure to be stable and predictable," he said. Across the Ontario production sector, U.S. streamers like Amazon and Hulu are similarly locking up studio space, talent and crews for bigger and ever more elaborate sets.

In all, around 250,000 square feet of studio space at both sites will house Netflix series and films, including the horror anthology series Guillermo del Toro Presents Ten After Midnight and the upcoming romantic comedy Let It Snow, from Planet of the Apes franchise producer Dylan Clark.

"With this commitment to Pinewood Toronto and Cinespace, we are proud to continue our investment in Canada and Canadian films and series," Ty Warren, vp of physical production for Netflix, said in a statement. Netflix and other streamers are taking a page out of the major Hollywood studios’ playbook by producing original product in Ontario, as competitive tax credits and a cheap Canadian dollar bring down budget costs.

Ontario offers generous filming incentives, including an all-spend tax credit of 21.5 percent that is stackable with a Canadian film tax credit and the province's additional animation and visual effects credit.

Netflix is no stranger to Toronto. The launch of its Canadian production hub follows the streaming giant unveiling plans to significantly expand its Canadian presence, which includes spending at least $500 million in production expenditures over five years.

Netflix's Canadian expenditures are already pacing well ahead of that commitment as the streamer is currently shooting The Umbrella Academy, V-Wars and the horror series October Faction in Toronto. Previous Netflix productions to shoot in Ontario include Hemlock Grove, Christmas Inheritance, In the Shadow of the Moon, Polar, Christmas Inheritance and The Christmas Chronicles.

Netflix, which has already leased the Martini Film Studios complex in suburban Vancouver, is touting around 1,850 production jobs in Canada to be created annually as it launches a production hub here. Oscar-winning The Shape of Water producer J. Miles Dale welcomed Netflix setting up locally as a critical step in growing Toronto’s film infrastructure.

"Both I – along with my producing partner Guillermo Del Toro – cannot wait to bring our own slate of projects to Toronto’s new Netflix production hub," Dale said. U.S. streamers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon setting up in Ontario comes as major local studios are expanding.

Cinespace, the home for studio work on MGM's The Handmaid’s Tale, is also building two more sound stages as part of the Titans Studios facility on Kipling Avenue in Toronto. Cinespace is also hosting shoots for MGM's Condor series, Netflix's Locke & Key and Umbrella Academy, Warner Bros.'s Titans, and Sony's The Boys series.

And Pinewood Toronto Studios, which currently has around 325,000 square feet of sound stages and hosts shooting for the Star Trek live-action TV series for CBS All Access, has plans to build another 200,000 square feet in production space. "I'm pretty excited about the state of the industry. We're open for business," Pinewood's MacLean said.

Besides its own original production, Netflix is also co-producing Canadian series like Anne With an E, Travelers, Frontier and the limited series Alias Grace. Netflix earlier tapped Albuquerque as the location for a U.S. production hub. And the streamer set up its first European production hub in Madrid to bolster Spanish-language production. 

Elsewhere, CBS Television Studios earlier said it was expanding in Canada as it gets set to open a 260,000-square-foot studio with six sound stages in Toronto in mid-2019.