Pinewood Toronto to Double Production Space as Hollywood Takes City to Full Capacity

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY Still - Publicity - H 2017
Jan Thijs/CBS

With the 'Star Trek' TV series and Guillermo del Toro shooting on its stages, Pinewood Toronto Studios will expand to 700,000 square feet of production space to accommodate more Hollywood blockbusters.

With Toronto's production capacity squeeze driving away Hollywood blockbusters, Pinewood Toronto Studios has unveiled plans to double in size as the Star Trek TV series already fills its stages.

"They gobble up a lot of space. So we need to expand," Alfredo Romano, a partner and investor in Pinewood Toronto Studios, says of CBS All Access' Star Trek drama, which is code-named Green Harvest on local production schedules to throw off Trekkies who might come round for a sneak peek.

Pinewood Toronto aims to add about 96,000 square feet of space by the end of 2019, including stages, workshops and production offices, and to eventually get to 700,000 square feet. That's just over double its current capacity of 11 soundstages with more than 330,000 square feet.

Pinewood Studios Toronto is co-owned by Romano, a major Toronto real estate developer, Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO of the Comweb Group and William F. White International, pension fund investor ROI Capital and the city of Toronto. The mega-studio's latest facility, including an 11,000 square foot soundstage and 9,500 square feet of workshop space for costume design and set construction, is slated to open in May 2018.

The expansion comes as Toronto is bursting at the seams, churning out Hollywood movies and TV shows like Suicide Squad, IT, Greg Berlanti's DC drama Titan and ABC's Designated Survivor. Despite that record volume for Toronto, a chronic shortage of quality studio space has the city losing out to Vancouver, Atlanta and New York City in the big-budget arena.

"We're at capacity," Brad Duguid, Ontario's minister of economic development and growth, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It kills us to know there's production that could be coming here, but isn't because there's no space," he adds.

Pinewood Toronto Studios is also set to host in early 2018 shoots for the DC Comics action flick Shazam!, an unspecified Netflix project and James Cameron's and Guillermo del Toro's Fantastic Voyage remake.

Rival Cinespace Film Studios is also virtually filled to capacity, and expanding, after hosting shoots for Guillermo del Toro's awards-season contender The Shape of Water and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale. Besides the major studios long using Toronto to stand in for New York City and Chicago, among other locales, U.S.-based online streamers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime also seeing their projects shot north of the border has local politicians rubbing their hands.

"We're expanding. We want them to keep coming," says Toronto councilor Michael Thompson, who heads the city’s economic development committee. Netflix recently struck an agreement with the federal government in Ottawa to invest $500 million over five years to help produce Canadian content for its worldwide platform, and to establish a permanent production presence, its first ever outside the U.S.

Netflix and the CBC are co-producing the miniseries Alias Grace, written by Sarah Polley and directed by Mary Harron from a crime novel penned by Margaret Atwood, and Anne, a TV drama based on the Anne of Green Gables book series. At the same time, plans to build and open new studio space hinge on Ontario continuing to offer Hollywood producers a stable and reliable Ontario tax credit.

The Toronto production sector was caught flat-footed in 2015 when Ontario trimmed its provincial tax credit to help lure Hollywood movie and TV shoots to Toronto. The province's Duguid tells THR that Ontario has no plans to give its film tax credit another haircut, and would keep the generous tax incentive in place "for the foreseeable future."