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Deal will create studio on Toronto waterfront

TORONTO — After months of delay and much speculation that the project was in difficulty, Toronto Mayor David Miller finally announced Thursday a new deal to create a C$100 million ($85 million) studio, Filmport, on the Toronto waterfront.

The city of Toronto Economic Development Corp. (Tedco), Toronto Film Studios and its parent company, the Rose Corp., have signed a 99-year lease for a 30-acre site in the port area, southeast of downtown.

Toronto Film Studios has committed to begin the first phase no later than Aug. 31, although prexy Ken Ferguson said construction will likely begin in spring, with the first phase open a year later.

The studio is part of a complex that will include restaurants, conference facilities and possibly a hotel. Total pricetag is $233 million.

Ferguson said negotiations between Tedco and the Toronto Film Studios took longer than expected in part due to the major downturn in foreign filming in Toronto last year.

“We needed a deal that could withstand the irregularities of the film cycle,” Ferguson said.

The first phase will comprise 232,500 square feet of production facilities, including six soundstages totaling 123,000 square feet and more than 100,000 square feet of production offices and support facilities.

Ferguson said the existing Toronto Film Studios will begin closing as the new facility gets up and running.

“We believe Toronto’s film industry will grow tremendously because of Toronto Film Studios’ investment in this landmark project,” said Jeffrey Steiner, CEO of Tedco.

Filmport is designed to attract the big-budget Hollywood pics that have often bypassed Toronto because there was better large-scale studio space in Vancouver and Montreal.

After two tough years, filming has picked up this year in Toronto and Toronto Film Studios has hosted larger American pics, including the Michael Douglas-produced Kiefer Sutherland starrer “The Sentinel”; the Richard Donner-directed “16 Blocks,” with Bruce Willis; and “Silent Hill,” based on the videogame series.

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