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Ontario lures H’w’d with tax credit

Other provinces are expected to follow suit

Ontario will raise the tax credit for labor expenditures on foreign films and TV shows shooting in the Canadian province from 18% to 25% on Jan 1 — and other provinces are expected to follow suit to remain competitive.

The tax credit for locally made film and TV productions will increase from 30% to 35% of labor expenditures.

The increase was greeted with enthusiasm by the Ontario film and TV industry, which has been worried about the negative impact of the surprisingly robust Canadian dollar.

The loonie, as it’s called here, is now worth about the same as the U.S. buck, which means American filmmakers are no longer getting the exchange-rate savings they used to when lensing in Canada.

“The film industry was hoping this was going to come,” said Ken Ferguson, president of Toronto Film Studios, the city’s largest facility. “It’s certainly going to offset the impact of the high Canadian dollar. This is going to put Toronto right in the middle of the pack in terms of incentives. There are jurisdictions that give a lot more money, but they don’t have as much to offer in terms of the bench strength of the crews and the soundstages.”

It’s been a relatively good year for U.S. film shoots in Ontario, but most believe the only reason the industry hasn’t been hurt more by the surging Canadian dollar is that Hollywood is stockpiling pics to be ready for a potential Screen Actors Guild and/or Directors Guild of America strike next year.

Pics that shot in Toronto this year include “Repossession Mambo” and “The Incredible Hulk.” The Warner Bros. pilot “Fringe” begins lensing in January.

Karl Pruner, president of the Toronto branch of actors union ACTRA, applauded the government’s decision to increase the film and TV tax credits.

“Their current initiative is a clear win for our industry and should be recognized as such,” said Pruner. “The government of Ontario deserves our thanks for its crucial support of this province’s film and television industry.”

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