Streaming Wars Lead to Rise in Canadian Film and TV Shoots

Pinewood Toronto Studios - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy PT Studios Inc.

CBS Television Studios last year opened a 260,000-square-foot studio in Toronto, and Netflix launched its latest global production hub in the city by taking long-term leases on eight soundstages: "I've never seen this many projects in this country."

Just five years ago, Canada was experiencing a locations boom thanks to the steady flow of Hollywood shoots heading north of the border. Now the streaming wars are taking the demand for shooting in the country to an entirely new level.

CBS Television Studios last year opened a 260,000- square-foot studio in Toronto, and Netflix launched its latest global production hub in the city by taking long-term leases on eight soundstages at Pinewood Toronto Studios and Cinespace Films Studios.

Pinewood Toronto already has CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery shooting on a few of its 11 purpose-built stages and is busily adding another 170,000 square feet to be operational in early 2021.

"When complete, Pinewood Toronto Studios will be Canada's biggest production complex and will make a world of difference in our ability to attract high-end productions to Toronto," Pinewood Studios Group spokesman Andrew Smith tells THR.

And Randy Lennox, CEO of Bell Media, which owns a controlling stake in Pinewood Toronto Studios, on Jan. 30 told an Ottawa producers conference that he would announce by June "a second studio at another major Canadian city," without specifying the location.

Elsewhere in Ontario, construction on TriBro Studios in Pickering, just east of Toronto, is set to start in May, with completion targeted for September or October 2021. A separate TriBro Studios facility in Ottawa is set to break ground in July, with a November 2021 completion.

First Studio City, the latest facility to join the Canadian shooting craze, has dashed plans for a 400,000-square-foot studio facility in Markham, just north of Toronto. Frank Sicoli, chairman and CEO of First Studio City, tells THR his consortium is set to close a deal for alternative land elsewhere in greater Toronto on which to build its planned facility, with a 2022 launch in mind.

Canadian film and TV production equipment rental giant William F. White International opened four soundstages in May at the 152,000-square-foot Whites Studios Edwards Boulevard facility in west Toronto, with Disney as a long-term tenant. Last March it also added a fourth studio facility in Vancouver — Whites Studios Copperwood.

"I've never seen this many projects either initiated or under construction in this country," says William F. White International chairman and CEO Paul Bronfman, who is also chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios. 

This story first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.