Enbridge deal with Hydro puts studio back on track

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Toronto's long anticipated megafilm studio is back on track to be completed in time for next spring.

A jurisdictional dispute between utilities Toronto Hydro and Enbridge Gas Distribution had threatened to delay the opening of the studio and place the already struggling Ontario film industry on precarious ground.

Hydro is installing power lines in the 12-hectare Filmport complex – which features the largest soundstage in North America – in the portlands area.

But Enbridge is also contracted to run a natural gas pipeline in the area for the Portlands Energy Centre, a gas-fired power plant at the foot of Leslie St.

Toronto Hydro workers were to have left the area by October 5, which would have meant the studio would have been delayed for two months or more, resulting in a potential loss to the city in the millions of dollars.

But a deal between the two utilities means Hydro will be allowed to finish its work. Filmport's first soundstages are expected to be completed by March.

"Everything's been settled and on track," said Enbridge spokesperson Debbie Boukydis.

Under the terms of an agreement worked out by both sides, Enbridge will move into the area on Oct. 18 for preliminary work. At the same time, Hydro will be allowed to complete their work until Oct. 25.

Hydro spokesperson Tanya Bruckmueller said the utility should be able to fully complete the work by that time.

The delay would not have been a welcome one, particularly since the industry has been hobbled by a loonie that has flown above the U.S. dollar, eradicating any competitive cost advantage.

A possible strike by the Screen Actors Guild by next year would shut down production in the summer, so studios are booked solid as producers try to put as much in the pipeline as possible.

"We're quite pleased that everyone has worked things out, and it appears that Hydro should be able to keep up their schedule," said Filmport partner Ken Ferguson.

"The issue for us was to keep Hydro working. If they had stopped, it would have meant no power to the buildings especially during the winter period when we needed it most to continue construction."

Ferguson estimates that the average big studio film spends about $1.5 million to $2 million renting space when they book with his company. In addition to direct costs, the city estimates the economic impact is 2.5 times greater as studios and stars spend money in the city.

Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns, a long-time supporter of the film industry, said the compromise was good news.

"This is fabulous news for the film industry," Tabuns said. "If this hadn't been resolved it would have been a disaster for the city."


in Year