Unions, guilds push to reopen Toronto studio

Shoots more expensive in Canada as loonie soars

TORONTO -- With the Canadian dollar once again rocketing in value against the greenback, you can almost feel the air seeping out of the local film and TV industry as it struggles to woo Hollywood movie and TV shoots.

"We are in a recession. We are in a high-dollar situation," Toronto-based location manager Keith Large said Monday as local unions and guilds launched a campaign to reopen the Toronto Film Studios complex in downtown Toronto to ease what's seen as a shortage of quality sound stages here.

Toronto had a successful U.S. pilot season as studios shifted production away from U.S. border states, and especially New York State, just as the Canadian dollar hovered around 80 cents U.S. in the spring.

But the steadily weakening greenback -- the loonie surged 10% in value in May to stand at 92.4 cents U.S. on Monday -- has made Canada a more expensive location for shooting, just as Toronto saw 24 soundstages at the former Toronto Film Studios and Cinespace Marine Terminal 28 facilities were shuttered.

Bob Hall, president of IATSE 873, said that the big-budget U.S. features "Footloose," "Salt" and "The A-Team" surveyed Toronto as a possible location before going elsewhere for a lack of quality sound stages.

Hall urged the city of Toronto to help reopen the Toronto Films Studios complex to attract film and TV production back to Toronto.

"We cannot allow our production center to continue to erode," Hall said.

Major shoots in Toronto include the Universal Pictures' movie "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" booked into the Cinespace Studios on Booth Avenue and Filmport, and "Casino Jack or Bagman," the Kevin Spacey starrer about disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

And Filmport, which is now managed by Britain's Pinewood Studios Group and bankrolled by the city of Toronto, has the NBC Universal series "Warehouse 13" on its sound stages.