As a Writers Guild of America strike looms, Hollywood lifted Ontario to its best-ever year for film and TV production levels in 2016.
Ontario tourism, culture and sports minister Eleanor McMahon on Monday announced province-wide production volume hit a record $1.69 billion last year, up from $1.5 billion in 2015, thanks to Los Angeles producers shooting locally in record numbers.
"Those tax incentives aren't going anywhere," McMahon told a press conference at William F. White Centre, the west Toronto production equipment facility, as she talked about generous tax breaks for Hollywood producers bringing production north.
The biggest boost for Ontario in 2016 came from foreign location shoots, including U.S. network TV series like FX's The Strain, CBS' Star Trek: Discovery and ABC's Designated Survivor, starring Toronto-raised Kiefer Sutherland. TV production accounted for $1.38 billion, or 81.5 percent, of the total Ontario production last year, up 9.5 percent from 2015 levels.
Overall foreign production in the province hit $847.3 million, which accompanied another $842.6 million in total domestic production. On the foreign front, around $514 million was poured into American TV series shoots, up 10.5 percent from a year-earlier $465.7 million.
Other American TV series shot here last year included American Gods, The Girlfriend Experience and The Handmaid's Tale. Local Canadian series to shoot in Ontario last year and air stateside included BBC America's Orphan Black, starring Tatiana Maslany, and Pop's Schitt's Creek.
Hollywood features shot in the province in 2016 as producers chased tax credits and currency savings included the Vin Diesel-starrer xXx: The Return of Zander Cage and the Matt Damon-toplined Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne. Los Angeles producers shot fewer movies in Ontario last year, but their budgets overall were higher, compared to 2015 levels.
Canada's largest production hub this month has 26 projects shooting or in preproduction. Those include the Ethan Hawke thriller Stockholm and TV series Dark Matter, Killjoys, Odd Squad and Condor.
Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO of rental equipment supplier William F. White International, on Monday cited the province's generous foreign-film tax credits for sustaining record production in the region. But the exec, who is also chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios, urged local politicians to do more to financially back new studio space construction in Toronto to ease a chronic shortage.
"The missing piece is studio capacity. Everybody who is a producer is facing real capacity challenges," Bronfman told McMahon and fellow politicians assembled in Toronto. Ontario's production boom, showing no signs of slowing, has Los Angeles producers still eyeing Vancouver as rental demand in Toronto surges and local studios are hard-pressed to expand.
Toronto remains the biggest film and TV production hub in Canada.