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Canadian complex stirs runaway debate

$15 mil auto plant refurb could hurt H'wood

MONTREAL — Plans to build what is touted as the world’s biggest studio complex in Canada are set to add to the row raging in Hollywood about runaway production.

Studio Bromont co-founders Jocelyn Parenteau and Thomas Rioux have paid C$21 million ($13 million) for a former Hyundai auto plant in Bromont, southeast of Montreal.

The pair plan to spend another $15 million converting it into a high-tech facility with 1.2 million square-feet of buildings on a 422-acre lot. The studio will include 250,000 square-feet of stages with two main stages of 40,000 square feet.

It will also have a landing strip that can accommodate Boeing 737s, a two-lane car-test track, parking for 2,000 cars, two outdoor shooting areas and 100,000 square feet of office space equipped with high-speed fiber-optic communications system. The studio expects to receive its first production in April.

The announcement comes two weeks after Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman unveiled plans to build a million-square-foot film production facility on Toronto’s neglected waterfront.

In addition, construction kicked-off in December on a major expansion at Mel’s Cite du Cinema in Montreal. Four new studios there will complement the nine existing studios, already one of the largest facilities in the country.

Parenteau said there was a real need for another major studio in Quebec. “We lose several major productions each year because of lack of adequate facilities. This represents about $75 million to $125 million that is passing us by. The major U.S. and European productions each employ between 500 and 700 people. Since we will be able to film three projects simultaneously, you can imagine the level of economic activity that the studio will generate for our industry.”

Studio Bromont is financed with help from provincial government agency Investissement Quebec. It began trading on the Nasdaq index on Friday following a reverse take-over.

Hollywood pics already filming in the city include: Miramax’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind,” directed by and starring George Clooney with Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore and Julia Roberts; Mandalay pic “Beyond Borders,” a love story set against the international refugee crisis, top-lining Angelina Jolie; and “Levity,” starring Billy Bob Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter and Kirsten Dunst.

Shooting begins in Montreal in March on “The Human Stain” with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman and, in April, Richard Donner arrives in town to shoot big-budget time-travel pic “Timeline.”

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