Ontario Touts "Stable" Hollywood Movie Tax Credit After Chop

Ontario Illo - H 2013
Illustration by Kagan McLeod

Top minister tells Tinseltown her province's subsidy for foreign — mostly Los Angeles — producers remains "competitive" after last year's unexpected haircut.

Ontario says Hollywood can look to it for tax credit stability, despite the Canadian province imposing a surprise cut in generous taxpayer subsidies for foreign producers last year for budgetary savings.

"Industry execs are always looking for reliable places to play host to their productions. They're looking for stability," Ontario culture minister Eleanor McMahon told a consortium of Toronto-based studios, producers and unions, during an address Nov. 30 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

McMahon added her ministry will "market our talented film crews, world-class facilities and stable tax credit infrastructure to the world." Ontario studio and production execs routinely tour studio lots in Los Angeles to promote tax credits, local crews and acting talent, Toronto landmarks and versatile locales as grounds to shoot films and TV shows in Toronto.

The charm offensive has worked as Ontario booms, with local soundstages booked up for movies like Suicide Squad and xXx: The Return of Xander Cage and a slate of U.S. TV shows shooting locally. McMahon's touting a return to a stable Ontario tax credit follows the province in 2015 cutting the foreign film tax credit rate from a 25 percent all-spend to 21.5 percent for qualifying production expenditures.

Despite betting last year's cut in the film tax credit would be offset by increased savings to Los Angeles producers from a sharply lower Canadian dollar, trimming the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit hit confidence among the major studios that stable tax credits were available when shooting in and around Toronto.

Incentive-rich Vancouver and Montreal remain alternative locales for the major studios, and New York and Georgia also beckon. But mobile Hollywood producers have not gone elsewhere for the most part, as film and TV production continues to boom in an around Toronto.

If anything, Toronto's bustling with Los Angeles producers securing studio spaces, locations and crews has forced local producers to head to Hamilton, Ontario, and elsewhere in the province to shoot lower budget projects. The latest production data indicate the number of foreign, mostly Hollywood, films produced in Ontario in 2015, including the Oscar-winning Room and Spotlight, rose 87 percent and budgets soared 146 percent.

In all, $1.5 billion in film and TV expenditures were made in Ontario last year, the fifth year in a row that level exceeded $1 billion, with production virtually split between domestic and foreign production.

Toronto is the biggest film and TV production hub in Canada and the third largest by volume in North America, behind Los Angeles and New York City.