Studio poised to back bid on facility

Blighty’s Pinewood Studios Group is poised to back a bid for Toronto’s recently opened FilmPort studio complex.

On Monday, Toronto’s city council voted 31-7 to approve a loan for the city to purchase minority ownership in the C$65 million ($52.5 million) state-of-the-art studio and partner with Pinewood.

Terms of the closely guarded deal and the amount of the loan, purportedly worth millions, will be made public via the Toronto Economic Development Corp., which controls the lease on the land, once details are finalized.

The arrangement, which will give Toronto a seat on the studio’s board, should boost the city’s struggling film and TV industry. Mayor David Miller commented the city’s involvement is a transitional measure.

Reports suggest that Pinewood is partnering with Toronto development company Castlepoint Group and investment firm ROI Capital to acquire FilmPort.

The idea is that Pinewood would manage the Canadian studio for five-years after which Castlepoint and ROI would assume majority control.

If the deal comes off, it will allow 80% stakeholder Rose Corp. to end its involvement, opening the way for other investors.

The U.K. studio has expressed interest in FilmPort on previous occasions and in 2004 Pinewood and Castlepoint Development were beaten by Toronto real estate developer Rose Corp. to build the studio.

Last year Castlepoint and Pinewood established a joint venture, CastlePoint Studio Partners, to build a new studio in downtown Toronto.

Filmport has struggled since it opened last fall as events conspired against the Canuck film industry, including the strength of the Canadian dollar against the greenback and threats of a Hollywood actors’ strike..

FilmPort prexy Ken Ferguson recently indicated that the studio was in talks with several Hollywood productions that were considering using the facility later this year. He declined to comment on the city’s involvement and Pinewood’s potential new role.

A spokesman for Pinewood declined to comment.

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