New campaign to reopen facilities

TORONTO — Industryites kick-started a campaign to reopen the Toronto Film Studios on Monday.

The 16-soundstage facility, co-owned by Rose Corp. and Smart!Centres, has been shuttered since December.

The result is a space crunch for small- to medium-size productions, already compromised by the 2007 closure of four Cinespace stages at Marine Terminal 28.

The 20-year-old TFS was slated for demolition, but in March, owners were denied permission to rezone the industrial property for big-box retail development. They are reportedly appealing.

“We need to convince the private owners there’s a good business plan in keeping TFS open,” said campaign organizer Cal Loucks, a veteran film set decorator with credits on “The Incredible Hulk” and “Max Payne,” both of which used TFS. “If productions have to scramble too hard to find space, our fear is they may end up in places like Detroit or Boston.”

Rose Corp.’s state-of-the-art megastudio complex Filmport, which launched its first phase in the neighborhood in August, doesn’t fill the gap.

Filmport’s seven stages are larger than required by the industry’s bread-and-butter productions.

The shortage of modest studios could limit the number of foreign productions the city can accommodate and affect production on smaller-budget Canuck fare, said IATSE Local 873 union prexy Bob Hall. “Compromise in availability signals concern to our entire infrastructure, which has worked so hard to build Toronto into one of North America’s top five production centers,” Hall said.

As a stop-gap measure, the Ontario Media Development Corp., the government cultural agency that maintains an extensive proprietary locations listing, recently partnered with the Directors Guild of Canada’s Ontario chapter to identify suitable convertible industrial spaces in the city.

Ontario film commissioner Donna Zuchlinski said, “This is a temporary measure to meet the needs of new and returning productions.”

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