Province kicks in $5M for Calgary film studio

The province will contribute $5 million towards the construction of a new film studio in Calgary, officials announced on Tuesday.

$22.8M project to be spearheaded by Calgary Economic Development

Bruce Graham, head of Calgary Economic Development, announces plans for a new film studio in Calgary. (CBC)

The province will contribute $5 million towards the construction of a new film studio in Calgary, officials announced on Tuesday.

The $22.8-million project will be developed by Calgary Economic Development (CED).

The studio will feature two sound stages with 20,000 and 30,000 square feet each, plus 18,000 square feet of warehouse space and up to 15,000 more for props, sets and wardrobes.

“We’re delivering on our promise to see a film studio built for southern Alberta here in Calgary,” said Culture Minister Heather Klimchuk in a release.

“This move forward is good for the industry and good for Alberta — Alberta’s film, television and digital media industry was responsible for over $400 million in economic activity over the last five years.”

A location for the studio, which is expected to open in 2015, will be announced later, the province said. The city is contributing $10 million towards the project.

"First and foremost, we will be able to attract more productions because we will elongate our shooting season, having purpose-built facilities," said Luke Azevedo, the commissioner of film, television and creative industries with CED.

The main tenant and operator of the sound stage will be William F. White International.

Members of Alberta’s film industry had been eagerly anticipating the announcement.

"Most production jurisdictions have multiple studios and it's remarkable that Calgary has gone as long as it has without more viable sound stage facilities," said Damian Petti, president of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) local 212, the union that represents film workers.

For decades the lack of modern facilities has forced major film and TV projects to rent warehouses in southern Alberta to shoot interior scenes.

"We typically are able to do some sound kind of baffling, again it's often not ideal and you wait for airplanes and traffic, for a train,” said Tom Cox, who is the executive producer of the TV series Heartland and was a co-producer of Brokeback Mountain, the Oscar-winning 2005 film shot in Alberta.

Despite the challenges of shooting in Alberta, the local industry has turned out consistently high quality work, said CED president Bruce Graham.

"We've garnered more Golden Globe, Oscar and Emmy award nominations than any jurisdiction in Canada,” he said. 

Last summer the province turned down a request to contribute roughly $13 million towards construction of a state-of-the-art film studio near Canada Olympic Park.