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Ontario film, TV prod’n up 29% in booming ’92

Ontario’s production industry paints a much brighter picture of 1992 than the weatherman. While residents experienced the province’s lowest-ever level of sunshine, the production community basked in illuminated production levels that rose by 29%.

The Ontario Film Development Corp. figures show that 1992 film and television expenditures jumped to $ C326.4 million ($ 277.44 million), compared to a 1991 total of $ C252.9 million ($ 214.96 million). The numbers represent projects that received OFDC funding/assistance but do not include productions that were completed without aid from the provincial agency.

In addition, last year’s production boom resulted in economic spinoffs of approximately $ C650 million ($ 552.5 million) to peripheral businesses such as hotels, restaurants, vehicle rental companies and insurance brokers.

The increase is fuelled by both domestic and foreign productions. But it was domestic production that had the most significant increase, registering a record high of $ C254.7 million ($ 216.49 million). OFDC-funded domestic projects include an Ontario-Quebec co-venture of feature film “La Florida,” John Greyson’s musical feature “Zero Patience,” as well as telepic “The Diviners” (co-produced by Atlantis Films and Credo Group).

Foreign productions increased by 33% to a five-year high of $ C71.7 million ( $ 60.94 million). U.S. productions shot in Ontario include Disney’s “Life With Mikey,” (starring Michael J. Fox), Sidney Lumet’s “Beyond Innocence” (starring Don Johnson and Rebecca De Mornay) and Fox Broadcasting TV series “Class of ’96 .”

OFDC-assisted film and television projects shot in Ontario totalled 97. Out of a total of 23 features, 18 were domestic productions, while 26 out of 28 TV series were homegrown. As well, 36 out of 46 telepix, miniseries and specials were Ontario projects.

The OFDC attributes the production boom to a number of factors, such as a falling Canadian dollar and stepped-up marketing efforts that included the hiring of an L.A.-based marketing consultant.

However, OFDC’s CEO Paul Gratton notes that its Ontario Film Investment Program (OFIP) played a key role in stimulating domestic independent production in the province. “Without OFIP, the industry would have suffered a severe reduction in production this year, especially in TV series,” says Gratton.

OFIP provides $ C14 million ($ 11.9 million) annually in rebates to investors. But the fund is set to expire at the end of March, unless the government decides to renew it. Gratton added his voice to an industrywide lobby currently underway to press the government to continue the program. Supporters include Nelvana, Paragon Entertainment, Alliance Communications, Primedia and Atlantis Films.

“OFIP drives independent TV production, which is the engine of the industry’s activity. Without it, Ontario’s economy would lose an effective and efficient stimulant to investment, production and job creation,” per Gratton.

The OFDC estimates OFIP stimulated $ C388 million ($ 329.8 million) in production activity from April 1989 to March 1992. In 1992 alone, OFIP triggered the production of 10 TV series, including Alliance’s “E.N.G.,” Atlantis’ “Maniac Mansion” and Paragon’s “Beyond Reality.”

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