2 new film studios to be built in Etobicoke as TIFF kicks off, mayor announces

Construction is beginning on two new film studios on Cinespace's Kipling Studio campus in the city's west-end as TIFF 2017 kicks off, Toronto Mayor John Tory announced Thursday.

The new studios make up 50,000 square feet of space

Cinespace has brought more than 1.3 million square feet of studio space to Toronto over the last 30 years. (Cinespace FIlm Studios)

Construction is set to begin on two new film studios on Cinespace's Kipling Studio campus in Etobicoke, adding to the growing number of studios dotting the city's west-end.

The new Titan Studios will combine to make up 50,000 square feet of space.

"When I go out selling our film industry, the one concern I hear repeatedly is the shortage of studio space. That's why today's announcement is so important," said Tory in a press release.

"Our film, television and digital industry has had booming success over the last couple of years and it's clear that the industry shows no signs of slowing down. I congratulate our studio veterans — Cinespace and the Mirkopoulos Family — on this project and for responding to the industry demand for studio space."

Exploding Industry

Cineplace Film Studios used be a glass factory until the Mirkopoulos family bought the building in 2009, hoping to start a new film node in the city.

"Really over the last 5, 10 years it's become an area of the city that's just been a perfect location for film production," said Etobicoke-Lakeshore Coun. Justin Di Ciano. "As soon as Cinespace bought 777 Kipling, it happened fairly quickly after that. On any given day the parking lots are full, the cranes are up in the sky."

At least 10 production sites have opened in the area surrounding south Etobicoke. (CBC)

At least 10 studios are now located within a small stretch south Etobicoke. To Di Ciano, the distance from downtown is precisely what makes the area ideal. 

"You don't have the skyline behind us, so when they do outdoor scenes they can do anything they want and you don't see the buildings in the background," he said. That neutral backdrop allows the lot to transport audiences to far-flung places like France, Russia and Italy.

Jim Mirkopoulos, vice president of Cinespace Film Studios, says clients also prefer to be farther from the congestion that typically clogs downtown roadways, allowing them to make faster trips to other nearby locations for shoots. 

Booming Industry

Toronto's domestic and foreign film, television, digital and commercials industry spurred $2.01 billion in city investments for the first time in 2016, and the creation of more than 40 thousand jobs, according to the city.

Mirkopoulos credits that success to a tax credit program run by the provincial government, talented local crews and now, the much-needed studios. 

According to Cinespace vice president Jim Mirkopoulos, Cinespace Film Studios is now the busiest production site in the country. (John Lesavage/CBC)

"For the last few years, our city has been really space-challenged in terms of studio space," he said. "As you probably know, digital platforms out of Hollywood are exploding ... so all of our studio space in Toronto is pretty much spoken for 12 months of the year," he said.

"Up until August of this year we've turned away at least 10 projects from our facilities, and some of them actually ended up going to other jurisdictions, which is unfortunate."

Thursday's announcement will fix that problem, he said. 

Currently, The Handmaid's Tale (MGM), The Expanse (Alcon Entertainment), Falling Water (NBC Universal) and Taken (Europa Corp.) are some of the series being produced in Cinespace studios in Toronto, as well as several films. 

Mirkopoulos said Cinespace will have announcements soon on new productions coming to their space, including a "major new Netflix series."​

Over the last 30 years, Cinespace has brought more than 1.3 million square feet of studio space to Toronto. 

xoTO Filmmakers Lounge

Local film will also be celebrated at this year's Toronto International Film Festival as part of the xoTO Filmmakers Lounge, launching Thursday at 6 p.m.

Five of the most buzzed-about films being showcased at this year's festival were shot in Toronto: The Shape of Water, Downsizing, Kodachrome, Molly's Game and Alias Grace.

At the height of the Cold War, circa 1962, two workers in a high-tech US government laboratory (Sally Hawkins and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) discover a terrifying secret experiment, in this otherworldly fairy tale from Guillermo del Toro, 'The Shape of Water.' (TIFF)

The films will also be promoted on a billboard on the Gardiner Expressway as well as on more than 200 transit shelters across the GTA throughout the festival.

Industry officials are being invited to discover the secrets behind these filmmakers' success, so they too can become one of the many producing content in this city.
"Toronto should be known internationally as a great place to showcase their films with TIFF," Mirkopoulos said. "But we also want to be known internationally as the global centre of excellence for film and TV production."

With files from Alison Chiasson