U.S. prod'n in Canada sees little traction

SAG contract's impact uncertain as loonie remains strong

TORONTO -- The Canadian film and TV industry is cheering the new two-year SAG deal.

The bad news is the new Hollywood actors contract may not open the floodgates to U.S. production in Canada. The fault lies with a Canadian dollar that surged in value compared with the American greenback from 80 cents to 90 cents between mid-April, when SAG and the studios first reached a tentative deal, and this week's news of final ratification.

"The instability of the Canadian dollar is playing a role. It's a fact that a U.S. feature that would normally only look at Toronto is looking at other jurisdictions in the U.S. as a result," said Jim Mirkopoulos, vp facility management at Cinespace Film Studios in Toronto, on Wednesday.

A stronger loonie has undercut Canada's cost-competitiveness compared to U.S. border and southern states just as Hollywood studios return to greenlighting projects and scouting for summer and fall shooting locations.

Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada's actors union, said an 85 cent Canadian dollar is required before the major studios cross the border in bigger numbers.

Absent a quick pull-back by the loonie, Waddell urged the federal government to sweeten its tax credit for foreign producers or extend refundable costs to pre- and postproduction activity, to restore Canada's competitiveness.

Across the country in Vancouver, there's more optimism over the SAG deal as soundstages continue to fill with U.S. movie and TV projects.

"It's good news and a big relief in that we all need certainty as much as possible in this crazy business," said Peter Leitch, president of Vancouver-based Lionsgate Studios.

Vancouver recently snagged Warner Bros. Television's sci-fi drama "Fringe" away from New York and counts "Marmaduke" and "Percy Jackson" among local movie shoots.
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