Production spend in T.O. hit record $2B in 2016

Foreign investment in major productions was a key driver, with animation/VFX also seeing significant growth.

Production spend in Toronto reached a record-breaking $2 billion in 2016, up from $1.55 billion in 2015, according to a new report released by the City of Toronto.

Foreign investment in major productions (features, TV series, and TV specials/MOWs) was key to that growth, with total U.S. and international production spend increasing 49% to $794 million in 2016 from $530 million in 2015.

At the same time, however, domestic investment in major productions decreased by nearly 16%, with homegrown and Canadian co-production spend down to $428 million from $509 million in 2015.

Of the major productions shooting in Toronto in 2016, 49 were feature films, up slightly from 45 in 2015; 266 were TV specials or MOWs, up from 124 the previous year; and a whopping 115 were TV series, up from 81. TV series, like History’s Vikings and Bravo’s Suits, are the dominant investment type in Toronto, with $908 million in production spend last year. While it didn’t offer specific numbers, the report did point to new TV series shooting in the city, such as ABC’s Designated Survivor (pictured) and CBC/Netflix’s Anne, as contributing to this growth.

Toronto mayor John Tory has been busy promoting the city as a filming and post-production destination. In January, Tory and a team of 22 industry representatives travelled to L.A. to encourage foreign producers, including Netflix, to choose Toronto for their next productions. The trade mission followed a similar, albeit smaller, trip the mayor took in February 2016.

The other key contributor to production investment growth in the city was the 179% increase in animation and visual effects spend. Investment in that sector grew to $403 million in 2016, up from $144.5 million in 2015.

On the rise in animation/VFX spend, the report states: “The dramatic increase for 2016 is attributable to a combination of the quality and collaborative nature of the work done in Toronto, a stronger industry presence and exposure for our local Animation/VFX houses and the current level of the [Canadian dollar] relative to the [U.S. dollar].”

The number of location filming shoot days also increased in 2016, to 7,280 days from 6,680 in 2015.

Commercial production spend in the city also grew to $380 million, from $345 million in 2015. The report notes that, since 2014, the commercials sector has increased 195% from $194.6 total spend that year.