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Mayor courts U.S. moviemakers

T.O. tries to revive Hollywood North stature with tax incentives, low dollar and new studio complex 

Toronto Mayor David Miller spent last week in Los Angeles trying to woo U.S. studio bosses, indep­endent movie producers and expatriate Canadians in Hollywood back to Tor­on­to with promises of high tax credits, an imp­roved industrial infrastructure and the lure of a low Canadian dollar.

“The idea was to promote Toronto’s excellence in film and TV production and post-production facilities,” Miller said on the phone from Los Angeles. “And the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate because of the low Canadian dollar.”

Along with the attractive 80-cent dollar, Miller told Hollywood producers they will be charged just 78 cents for every Canadian dollar spent on city services.

Miller’s trip, which had been planned “for some time,” acknowledged that Toronto has lost its former Hollywood North lustre since 9/11 and the 2003 SARS scare, and along with it, millions of dollars in movie-related revenue to the U.S. New York and Michigan, in particular, started matching Canada’s federal and provincial tax credits with their own “aggressive tax incentives,” the mayor said.

Until recent months, an increasingly strong Canadian dollar further eroded Toronto’s financial advantages to American filmmakers. “The past year has been particularly difficult because of the writers’ strike and the credit problems that have affected the entire U.S. economy. In Toronto last year we did $500 million of movie business, and $100 million of that was from the U.S. In 2007 we did $750 million in (movie) business, with $250 million from Hollywood.”

High on Miller’s boost list was Filmport, the massive $80 million film production centre being built in the east end. It’s touted as North America’s largest movie production facility.

Miller met daily with representatives of major U.S. movie studios. “They spoke very highly of Toronto, of our facilities and the skill of our workers,” he said. “The message was very positively received and Toronto is very much on the radar in Hollywood. We are under very active consideration.”

 
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