Cinespace to build new film and TV studio at former industrial shipping terminal

Cinespace Studios and PortsToronto have announced plans to build a new film and TV studio at the site of a former shipping terminal in the Port Lands.

The new studio will offer 165,000 square feet of production space

An artist's rendering of the future Cinespace studio at Marine Terminal 51. (Cinsepace)

Once the home of cargo and cruise ships landing in Toronto, a large marine terminal in the Port Lands will soon become the city's newest film and TV studio.

On Friday, Cinespace Film Studios announced plans to lease the property near Unwin Avenue from PortsToronto and convert the terminal into a 165,000 square foot studio.

The move comes in response to what has been called an "exploding" demand for studio space coupled with a shortage in available filming locations.

"Hearing the clear and recurring requests from Toronto's repeat film clients for more studio space in our city, we asked every agency in Toronto to audit their inventories for large sites that could be leased to the film industry," said Mayor John Tory.

The former Marine Terminal 51 will become the new hub for Cinespace's downtown productions. The company recently housed a range of high-profile shoots at its Toronto studios, including the TV series The Handmaid's Tale and the Oscar-nominated film The Shape of Water.

John Tory, on the set of 'The Handmaid's Tale' at Cinespace's current Eastern Avenue studio. (Ali Chiasson/CBC)

The new studio will not only relocate but improve on the previous Cinespace property in Toronto's studio district, according to president and CEO Steve Mirkopoulos.

"Toronto's film industry has great potential for further growth and success," he said.

Studio space needed

While Toronto is the third largest film and TV production centre in North America, according to the city, the province of Ontario was narrowly edged out by British Columbia last year in total production volume.

Production companies in Toronto have described a lack of studio space as the most pressing challenge for future growth of the city's film industry.

At last count, the city boasts approximately 900,000 square feet of studio space, in addition to state-of-the-art post-production and special effects facilities.

A current view of the terminal, which includes facilities for cargo and cruise ships. (Cinespace)

Cargo, cruises unaffected

PortsToronto, which operates under a government mandate, says the lease will not affect or displace any industrial shipping operations in the city, which accounted for around 2.2 million metric tonnes of goods in 2017.

"After careful study of current operations and future needs for the Port, it was confirmed that our marine terminals property could also accommodate new studio space in some of its existing buildings," said PortsToronto CEO Geoffrey Wilson.

Cruise ships will continue to use the terminal in the area, though a portion of the cruise ship terminal will be used for the new studio.

In 2016, Cinespace sold its current property on Eastern Avenue to General Motors Canada, which will turn the location into an office, research and sales facility once the move is complete.