B.C. production is bouncing back

Current prod. list includes 'X-Men 3,' 'RV,' 'Gray'

VANCOUVER — Runaway and domestic film and TV production in British Columbia is recovering strongly, following a disastrous 2004 when revenues fell more than 40% over the previous year.

There are 19 features on the May production list from the B.C. Film Commission, including the third “X-Men” movie, compared with 10 this time last year. Other features include “RV,” starring Robin Williams; “Catch and Release,” starring Jennifer Garner; and “Gray Matters,” starring Alan Cumming, Heather Graham and Sissy Spacek.

Also on the current list are seven drama series, two movies of the week, two animation series and a TV pilot. Several new drama series will likely be added this month.

Production begins next week on “Pacific Air 121,” to be helmed by David R. Ellis and starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Permitted shooting days this year so far in Vancouver have jumped about 50% over the same period last year.

Unions are reporting increased activity, including the bellwether Teamsters Local 155, where employment is up at least 40% this spring.

The industry is hoping to break the record of 205 productions, set in 2002, aided by continuing growth in the number of Canuck productions.

Last year saw 194 productions, which brought in C$801.2 million ($649 million) compared with 169 in 2003, when eight big-budget features for U.S. studios pushed up revenues to a record $1.1 billion but strained resources.

The only big-budget features made here in 2004 were “Fantastic Four,” “Elektra” and “Man About Town.”

B.C.’s new tax incentives, inked in January and in effect until at least March (Daily Variety, Feb. 16), are credited with the sudden boost.

“They send a strong message to our customers in Los Angeles,” said Peter Leitch, prexy of Lions Gate Studios and chair of the Motion Picture Assn. of British Columbia.

At the same time, the rapidly rising value of the Canadian dollar against the greenback, which had made runaway budgeting difficult, has stabilized at about 80¢.

Another factor is the B.C. Film Commission’s aggressive marketing, which recently won three marketing awards in the province/state category at the AFCI Intl. Locations Trade Show in Santa Monica.

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