Toronto to vote on Pinewood-backed Filmport

Minority stakeholder Rose Corp. is moving aside

TORONTO -- The City of Toronto and Britain's Pinewood Studios Group, backed by director Ridley Scott and brother Tony Scott, are getting into business together at Toronto's Filmport studios.

The Toronto city council will vote on a proposal Monday that would see Pinewood manage Filmport. The move comes as minority stakeholder Rose Corp. exits to make way for new investors.

The new dollars will come from the city of Toronto, which already owns the land that Filmport leases and operates on; Pinewood's longtime local partner Alfredo Romano of Castlepoint Development; and equity player ROI Capital.

Paul Bronfman, CEO of Comweb Group, Canada's largest film-related services and equipment supplier and a Filmport stakeholder, said Monday that a deal to bring Pinewood into Filmport is in the works, though he could not provide details.

In 2004, Pinewood and Romano's Castlepoint Development narrowly lost out to rival Toronto real estate developer Rose Corp. to build a mega-studio on the city's waterfront for high-end, effects-heavy movie shoots.

Castlepoint and Pinewood last year established a joint venture, CastlePoint Studio Partners Ltd., to build a new studio in downtown Toronto on a 2.3-hectare site purchased for commercial development.

But Romano and Pinewood late last year began negotiations that would see the British studio giant take an equity stake in Filmport. Those talks stalled when Pinewood was unable to raise financing last fall as the recession began locking up credit.

A continuing poor debt market in London explains Pinewood's willingness to sign a management deal for Filmport, and not take an equity stake.

Filmport was slow to fill its seven sound stages after opening in August, but is now filled to capacity with movie and TV shoots and is expected to reap the rewards of a low Canadian dollar and a resurgence in Hollywood location shoots once the current studio-SAG standoff ends.