A major film and television production facility is set to be built in Toronto with the participation of the UK's Pinewood Shepperton Studios and its partners including Ridley Scott and Tony Scott. If approved for land-use permits, the 1.2m sq. ft. studio will feature as many as 16 sound stages over 43 acres of waterfront land, similar in scale to Pinewood or Shepperton. The announcement is sure to inflame passions in the US, where lobby groups such as the Film and Television Action Committee (FTAC) accuse Canada of unfairly luring production they say rightfully belongs in the US.

The $93m project is backed by two US-based concerns, HOK Architects, the world's largest architectural firm, and Sequence Development Group, a San Diego-based property development company, in conjunction with Toronto-based Shoot City. They hope to break ground by March 2003.

Production levels in Toronto have grown over the past decade but had reached a plateau. Film and television production has been growing by 15 per cent per annum and brought a high of $813m into Toronto's economy in 2000 and $769m in 2001. A governmental economic strategy report suggested a major studio complex with post production services would attract the big-budget, high value-added productions that currently bypass the city.

According to Julius Gombos, the CEO of HOK's Toronto-based project management subsidiary, the consortium will be canvassing the film and media professionals to create the ideal configuration for the new studio. "We want to provide what the market wants to buy and we'll get input from Pinewood Shepperton and Ridley Scott in terms of what the facility will have on offer." Gombos said that although production levels were off slightly in the aftermath of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, market analysis predicts production in Toronto will increase. "Pinewood Shepperton seems confident a facility will succeed, provided its scale and configuration are right."

Pinewood Shepperton Studios chairman Michael Grade told Screendaily that his organization is not an equity investor in the project but will work with Shoot City to provide guidance and expertise in the design and operation of the facility.

It's not the first time a Toronto studio has been put forward but the likelihood of this initiative succeeding is high. The city's had its hopes set on landing the 2008 Summer Olympic Games and using them as springboard to revitalise its waterfront lands. A massive studio facility might go some way in realising this goal.