Production booming in Toronto

Canadian film industry and government dignitaries turned out Thursday evening for the opening of the C$20 million ($20.4 million) William F. White Center.

More than half of the 338,000-square-foot complex houses the Toronto headquarters of WFW, Canada’s largest film, TV and theatrical production equipment provider, while the remainder is dedicated to related businesses and production offices.

“We moved in December, but there was still work to do getting production offices online, putting in a front lobby and cutting the grass,” joked Paul Bronfman, chairman-CEO of Comweb Group, which bought WFW in 1989. Comweb also owns a stake in Pinewood Toronto Studios, which Bronfman chairs, and manages a group of production-related businesses.

Director Norman Jewison and producer Don Carmody were on hand at the event billed as a celebration of the city’s revitalized film and TV production community.

Industry vet Bronfman has felt the highs and lows over the years but says there are solid prospects for a continuation of the city’s current production boom.

“In June 2009 (Ontario) bumped up its tax credit to match Quebec and include all spending, which started the momentum and changed the economic picture for U.S. productions even with our dollar at par,” Bronfman said.

After three lean years, Pinewood Toronto is full, with “Total Recall” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Pacific Rim” in the house. “That purpose-built studio space was designed to bring incremental business into Toronto, and now it’s changing the game,” Bronfman said.

But the biggest factor, Bronfman says, has been the stability and larger budgets of domestic productions, which contributed $657 million to the province in 2010, a slight dip from 2009.

The 2011 picture looks healthy with TV shows like eOne-produced “The Firm” among several new and returning TV series taking over Toronto streets and studios this summer. “If you had told me 10 years ago that there’s a Canadian series in town with a $2 million per hour budget, I would have laughed you out of town,” he said.

“American producers are taking notice that Toronto-based producers are making world-class shows like ‘Flashpoint’ and ‘Being Erica,’ so we’ve got a healthy balance between foreign and indigenous production that can keep the momentum going.”

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