Toronto Auto BLDG | 54.86m | 10s | Castlepoint Numa | a—A



From: Toronto Star Article

Apr 14, 2007 02:30 AM
Tony Wong

Europe's largest film studio, Pinewood Studios Group of London, is expected to open a major new studio complex in west-end Toronto, giving Hollywood North a badly needed lift, the Star has learned.

The project's developer is Toronto's Castlepoint Studio Partners Ltd., which is believed to be in partnership with Pinewood, whose owners include noted British director Sir Ridley Scott, say sources.

The deal, which closed earlier this week, will see the development of 100,000 square feet of new studio space near Bloor St. W. and Lansdowne Ave., according to sources close to the deal.

By attracting new production to Toronto, the studio will have the potential to generate hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in economic benefit for the city. Production companies spent more than $700 million filming in Toronto last year, down 21 per cent from the almost $900 million reported in 2005, according to the Toronto Film and Television Office.

One issue has been the lack of larger sound stages to accommodate big, special-effect movies.

The Incredible Hulk, for example, is supposed to be shooting in the city this summer, but some have questioned whether there is enough capacity to accommodate the Marvel Studios blockbuster.

But perhaps a greater issue for Hollywood has been the soaring Canadian dollar, which has been a major deterrent to U.S. production houses looking to film here.

The new studio will not open in time for the Hulk, which has a budget of more than $100 million (U.S.), but it could be ready for clients by the end of next year, according to the source.

The city's movie business has been thrown into turmoil in recent months with the closing of Cinespace Film Studios in February, as well as a strike by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, or ACTRA.

"It's phenomenal that you have a studio the calibre of Pinewood behind this, because it puts Toronto further on the radar map of global production companies," said one source.

An added benefit to Toronto of having a major operator such as Pinewood would be referrals. The city stands to attract more international business, or possible spillover traffic from Pinewood's European operations.

British director Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Blade Runner, Black Hawk Down) and his brother Tony Scott (Top Gun, Days of Thunder) have clout in Hollywood, and are partners in Europe's largest film studio, which has been host to virtually all the James Bond and Harry Potter films.

The closing of the Queens Quay E. studios of Cinespace in February represented about 20 per cent of the available studio space in the city, so the news is coming at a good time for a beleaguered industry still limping along after 9/11 and SARS.

The movie industry was estimated to lose $400 million from the six-week ACTRA strike that ended in February.

ACTRA announced yesterday that members had voted overwhelmingly to accept a deal reached with producers.

According to public records, Castlepoint closed a deal on Tuesday to purchase a 2.3-hectare site at Bloor St. W. and Lansdowne Ave., the former home of automotive parts manufacturer Tower Automotive Inc., which shut down last August.

Castlepoint has asked the city to designate the site a community improvement area to facilitate incentives to attract new industry.

The zoning is compatible with movie studio use. However, it must still undergo a site plan review process and the necessary permits must be obtained.

The source said the company would likely build five sound stages totalling 100,000 square feet of new space.

There is an existing building with 100,000 square feet that will be used for offices, and another 50,000 square feet of space to be used for workshops.

There is also a 10-storey, heritage-designated building.

Dominic McMullan, a spokesperson for Pinewood, said from London yesterday that the company would not comment on rumour or speculation.

Castlepoint developer Alfredo Romano, who purchased the site, would not confirm whether he planned to build a studio or whether a deal had been made with Pinewood.

However, in 2005 his firm partnered with Pinewood to make a bid for a 12-hectare spot in the portlands area, coming in a close second to Toronto developer Sam Reisman's Filmport project.

Romano would not say what he paid for the site, but one source said the total cost of the project would be in the $35-million-plus range.

Romano, along with cousin Mario, is a major residential developer in Canada and the United States, and is the largest private holder of property on the Toronto waterfront through Castlepoint Group.

The company is in the process of marketing a condominium designed by star architect Daniel Libeskind.

Castlepoint's studio will pose a challenge to the Filmport project, the mega-studios currently being built in the portlands area.

Filmport's deal became controversial as competitors sniped about the 99-year lease and a non-compete clause that shuts out other studios on Toronto Economic Development Corp. property.

"They (Castlepoint) have proven that you don't have to be dependent on waterfront land to make viable studio space," said a source.

One thing the new studio won't have, though, is the mega sound stage – more than 40,000 square feet – that Filmport is building.

There will likely be two 30,000-square-foot studios and several smaller ones.

"Pinewood already has a mega-stage in Europe, and they didn't want to build a white elephant in Toronto. A mega-stage is great for special effects but it wouldn't work in their business model," said the source.

Pinewood, which went public on the London Stock Exchange in 2004, has been looking to expand outside Europe.

Canada makes sense because it has underdeveloped facilities and a cheaper dollar than the United States, said a source.

Pinewood says on its website that it is seeking to develop its operations offsite as part of a larger growth strategy, "exporting its reputation and expertise to other facilities by taking on operator roles."
G. Simple.

We, Toronto, are "Hollywood North".

Vancouver can be "Hollywood Wet", or perhaps "Hollywood A bit Further North" or perhaps "Hollywood laying in remants and pieces after the big one has come and gone".

Oops get a grip Archivist. You got out, it's OK now.
Bloor and Landsdowne? I wonder how a studio will fit into the urban context.

Alvin, In this case, I think, perfectly. This collection of buildings, while not that far from transportation options, has always existing in a marginalized area, cut off by railway tracks. Existing uses were already industrial. I think the film studio concept is absolutely perfect in this area, and I'm pleased they are moving on this. I hope that the new buildings work well with the old. The 10 storey building has a charm for me that is hard to define, possibly because one always seems to be passing it by in the distance without actually being close to it. Below are some pics of the site.





Thanks for framing the site with pics - I was checking out the area maps and sort of thought (but wasn't sure at all) that the location might be right beside the tracks.

I wouldn't mind a Bond flick filmed here- err as long as it's meant to be TO and not 'big city USA' that is.
Around here were some TV studios. This is Wonderland (one of many CBC cancellations) was filmed here, for example.
This will be a big shot in the arm for an area that is slowly starting to gentrify, at least on the west side of the tracks. It's also great that an old industrial site will remain a place of employment as opposed to being turned into condos.

My friend lives in one of the townhomes directly to the north of the site. I will try to check out the construction once it starts. For $35 million, I wouldn't expect anything of architectural significance though.

I dig that old office building as well, Archvis. That fact that it's an office building from 1920 that's outside of the core makes it quite unique, and despite the unfortunate treatment it's received at the base, I think it's quite handsome. Hopefully the project will include an appropriate renovation of this building.
The buildings look to be in decent shape...not a lot of work needs to be done to the exterior, except peeling that siding off the base of the tower. Could be a great little cluster and it can only help the area.
Toronto’s growing studio space should attract major shoots

by: Etan Vlessing Apr 30, 2007

Now there's a second Toronto megastudio in the pipeline, and it could prove a win-win situation for a production center that has seen a dearth of major guest shoots in recent years.

Toronto real estate developer Castlepoint Development confirms it's behind a studio complex project in the city's west end with investment and an apparent seal of approval from Britain's Pinewood Studios Group, part owned by British film directors Ridley and Tony Scott.

Alfredo Romano, a Castlepoint principal, says he and Pinewood have formed a 50-50 venture - Castlepoint Studio Partners - which will open a $35-million, 100,000-square-foot, five-soundstage studio at Bloor Street and Lansdowne Avenue in fall 2008.

It's no done deal, as the project is still on the drawing board, and Castlepoint and Pinewood are doing their due diligence, says Romano.

But he adds that Castlepoint has indeed bought 2.3 hectares of land, and intends to go forward with Pinewood on the project.

A spokesman for Mayor David Miller confirmed land for the film studio has been bought "with intent," but as yet no application for a building permit has been made, nor have site plans been sent to city hall.

Romano says his land has been zoned for studio development, so securing permits and other permissions from the city should be no problem. The only other major hurdle is ratification from the Pinewood board, which he considers a formality.

The studio, if it goes ahead, will compete for big-budget foreign film shoots with the FilmPort studio complex, now being built on the waterfront by Toronto Film Studios.

"Game on. I think it's a fabulous thing for Toronto, because we have always said that FilmPort cannot be the silver bullet that can save the Toronto film industry," says Ken Ferguson, TFS president.

Other Toronto studio operators agree there's room for two megastudios in the city once FilmPort opens in March 2008 and the Castlepoint-Pinewood complex follows later that fall, as planned.

Jim Mirkopoulos, VP of facility management for Cinespace Film Studios, argues that more high-end studios in Toronto mean more choice for footloose Hollywood and foreign producers. Cinespace recently closed its Marine Terminal 28 location, but has other facilities and is continuing to develop a property on Eastern Avenue formerly leased by TFS.

The five new soundstages promised by Castlepoint-Pinewood, added to the seven new stages planned as part of the first phase of FilmPort, should go some ways in getting Toronto back into the big-budget Hollywood game alongside Vancouver and Montreal.

"I hope it's true," says Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO of the Comweb Group, a major equipment and services supplier. "When you think about Toronto, really there's a couple of purpose-built studios, but not on a scale to attract large American feature film."

Romano anticipates two large stages in the 28,000- to 32,000-square-foot range among the five in his proposed studio.

Besides the 100,000 square feet of new studio space, Castlepoint also intends to locate offices and workshops in another 150,000 square feet of existing building space on the midtown Toronto site, which will need to be refurbished to reduce building costs for the joint venture.

News of the Pinewood-Castlepoint studio was also welcomed by Jeff Steiner, CEO of the Toronto Economic Development Corporation, the municipal agency that has drawn flak from other studio owners for leasing city-owned land to FilmPort and then granting a non-compete clause in the Port Lands area.

Steiner says the possibility of Pinewood setting up in Toronto's west end provides proof that studio development could take place anywhere in Toronto, and not just on the waterfront.

"The model for having different centers of film activity across the city is Los Angeles, which has five clusters," says Steiner.

Romano says Pinewood would be an equity partner in the proposed Toronto studio. He would not comment, however, on media reports that the Scott brothers would possibly shift their own movie shoots from their U.K. operation to Toronto, or steer other foreign producers to Ontario. Last summer, the Scotts executive produced the Sony miniseries The Company, which shot at Cinespace.

But Romano does insist Pinewood is looking to the Toronto studio as a "foothold into the North American market."

A London-based spokesman for Pinewood declined to comment.
Does anybody know the status of this project? It's been awhile since I heard anything mentioned.