A large-scale film studio proposed for Greater Sudbury appears to be inching forward, with its proponent, Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION), requesting $7 million in municipal support.
In a city council resolution proposed in the Dec. 13 meeting agenda, it’s proposed that at least some of this funding will come in the form of the Employment Land Community Improvement Plan funding program, which is currently in development.
These funds are “flowed once the development is complete and operational and is provided in the form of a rebate on taxes already paid,” a report by city business development officer Emily Trottier notes.
Proponents last spoke at city council in August, when CION executive director Tammy Frick and CEI Management lead consultant Edith Myers walked the city’s elected officials through their vision.
Although they didn’t seek municipal funding at the time, city council of the day unanimously passed a motion asking staff to prepare an analysis for future consideration.
The requested report, then-Coun. Mike Jakubo said, should understand “the role that municipal governments have played in the creation or operation of film studios in other Canadian cities, so what is the standard across the country and the industry?”
Up for city council debate next week, the report highlights the role municipalities played in the creation of 10 film studios.
Closest to home is the Northern Ontario Film Studios in Greater Sudbury and North Bay, which the city has supported through a lease agreement for the former Barrydowne Arena since 2012. Earlier this year, the city also agreed to a similar lease agreement for a film studio at the Capreol Arena. Other municipalities have played similar roles in the creation of film studios.
CION is a non-profit cultural organization, and estimated the Freshwater Film Studio will create 1,384 jobs by its fifth year and generate $60 million in new annual revenue for local businesses.
The facility is proposed as a “purpose-built 116,000-square-foot film studio facility with three sound stages and accompanying support spaces. This layout and format have been selected to fill a gap in demand for studio space available in the region and across the province.”
The film studio is proposed to be constructed on The Kingsway, at the site of the now-cancelled Kingsway Entertainment District municipal arena project in the city's east end, and is now estimated to cost $39.3 million. Trottier’s report to city council notes private investors have committed $17 million toward the project pending municipal support, with the balance to be secured through a bank loan.
Freshwater Production Studios “has private investors and tenants in place to provide for the studio’s short- and long-term viability, however CION is also seeking public support to expedite the development and leverage current market conditions,” according to Trottier’s report.
Greater Sudbury has attracted 165 film and television projects during the past decade, which Trottier notes carried a direct impact of more than $216 million, not accounting for indirect or spinoff spending.
“Given demand across the province, research and industry feedback indicates there are opportunities to increase the percentage of production budgets spent locally to keep those funds in Greater Sudbury, and staff actively markets local unique locations and service offerings,” she wrote.
“Should council decide not to support Freshwater Production Studios, the studio would risk being delayed in its development and the opportunity to solidify its position as a film destination as productions seek studio space in other municipalities. Location filming has gotten more competitive and Greater Sudbury has lost new production business in recent years due to insufficient studio space.”
In addition to potential Community Improvement Plan funding, Trottier’s report notes The Kingsway site will require the city to develop an intersection at the film studio’s entrance, which might be cost-shared with the proponent.