Proposed multimillion-dollar studios promise to take the North’s film industry to the next level

There are now several different plans to build film and television studios in Northeastern Ontario.

All are convinced that there is enough business for everyone.

But Edith Myers, a film industry consultant who worked on the planned Freshwater production studios for Sudbury, says there’s no magic number of productions a city needs to attract to justify the construction of a multi-million dollar studio.

“You know, movie studios are kind of like Field of Dreams: Build it and people will come,” said Myers, CEO of CEI.

“When I first heard about this project I was a little skeptical, but I’ve become a believer in the idea. I think Sudbury is now ready for a film and television studio. is kind of the next step.”

The plan calls for the construction of a $36 million, 116,000 square foot studio in the proposed Kingsway Entertainment District.

Myers says this type of studio would attract more television productions in the $30-40 million budget range, which would help attract business to some of the smaller studios already operating in Sudbury.

That includes Northern Ontario Film Studios, which has leased the city’s former Barrydowne Arena since 2012 and initially promised to make film production a year-round business in the region.

The Freshwater Production Studios would be the first “purpose-built” film studios in Northern Ontario, with others being housed in former arenas and community halls. (Freshwater Production Studios)

Tammy Frick, executive director of Cultural Industries Ontario North and Cinéfest, says the small space “has shaken things up” for the industry and now is the time to go even further.

Frick and Myers will be at Sudbury City Council on Tuesday afternoon to present their plans and ask the city to explore ways to support the project, without asking taxpayers for money.

The plan is to start construction as early as mid-2023 and open the doors within the next two years.

Tammy Frick, Executive Director of Cinefest and Cultural Industries Ontario North, stands on a podium in front of a Cinefest logo.
Tammy Frick, executive director of Cinefest and Cultural Industries Ontario North, hopes construction of the new Freshwater Film Studio can begin next year. (Radio-Canada)

“Not that we have to rush, but I think we have to put ourselves on the map,” Frick said.

Myers says that in the industry, studios are infrastructure like “roads and sewers” that “keep the business going.”

And she adds that she’s confident there’s enough business for all the studios on offer in the north.

This includes plans for the former CTV building in Sault Ste. Marie and a former manufacturing plant in North Bay that is being converted into North Star Studios.

President Mitch Ouimette says the 68,000 square feet of warehouse space and 26,000 square feet of office space become a production facility at a total cost of $26 million.

But he says renovations have been delayed because companies like Amazon are eager to get in and shoot before it’s fully renovated.

Lights and scaffolding for a film shoot are set up inside an old bullring.
The former Barrydowne Arena in Sudbury has been leased to Northern Ontario Film Studios since 2012. (Northern Ontario Film Studios)

“We have an almost completely full slate for the next four years, consuming all the space in the facility,” Ouimette said.

“So before it’s even opened, it’s almost 100% sold out, which is a big deal to have.”

He says North Star does not plan to push for public funds at this stage because “public funds tend to slow down the process.”

With an Ontario film industry now worth $4 billion and growing, Ouimette thinks there will be more than enough business for all the studios planned for the region.

“None of the movie studios on offer are even at a point where they compete with each other because there is such demand.”


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