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Runaway prod’n back boosting Toronto biz

Ontario film biz racking in big numbers

TORONTO — Buoyed by a boffo jump in runaway production, the film and TV industry in Ontario brought in some respectable business last year.

According to the Ontario Media Development Corp.’s annual stats, 2004 spending in the biz was up 7% to C$935 million ($757 million) in Canada’s most populous province. The figures look good compared to a crummy 2003, the year the SARS scare took the wind out of the sails of the film and TV industry in Ontario.

Runaway production had the most dramatic jump. Foreign spending was up 31% from 2003 to $393.8 million. Of that, features took the lion’s share. Spending on bigscreen fare was up a whopping 139% to $268.3 million. TV movie spending was up 41% to $82.4 million.

The number of foreign productions decreased to 38 from 40, suggesting that per-project budgets are climbing. “The Pacifier,” “Assault on Precinct 13” and “Cinderella Man” were all shot in Toronto in 2004.

Toronto Film Studios prexy Ken Ferguson noted that the Russell Crowe starrer “Cinderella Man” was “a big film from beginning to end. It might have skewed the numbers a bit, but it’s hard to believe that one film would have done that single-handedly.”

Foreign series spending dropped 67% to $43 million.

Most of the figures are no great shakes when compared to 2002. During that year $465.1 million was spent on 69 foreign productions, including $138.4 million for TV movies and $151.4 million for TV series.

Only feature films seem to be on a true upward curve, with $174.9 million spent on 18 projects in 2002.

Domestic figures provide a much grimmer picture. Overall domestic spending fell by 11% to $362.9 million in 2004, features were down 56% to $32.2 million and TV movie spending dropped 34% to $40.7 million.

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