After years of fits andstarts, Toronto is finally going to get the giant production facility itsindustry has been calling for. The Toronto Economic Development Corporation hassaid the Toronto Film Studios (TFS) is the winning applicant to develop andbuild the facility.

The $118m (C$150m) projectcalls for a complex of up to 385,000 sq. ft on 30 acres of land in the city'sportlands area. An official announcement will be made later today.

It's long been claimed thatToronto has been passed over by big budget US productions in favour of Montrealand Vancouver because those cities have the large purpose-built sound stagesthat Toronto currently lacks. Still, the proposed studio faces an uphillbattle. US-financed production in the province was down 36% in 2003 from 2002,due to a combination of factors including the SARS scare and the increasingvalue of the Canadian dollar.

Earlier studio proposalshave foundered through a mixture of political infighting and bureaucratic incompetencethat pitted the city of Toronto against the province of Ontario and local filmstudio owners against out-of-towners. Indeed, the most recent casualty was aproject supported (but not financed by) the UK's Pinewood Shepperton Ltd, abidder alongside Toronto-based Castlepoint Investments in the current round.Their partnership lost to TFS in the final two-bid showdown.

TFS, which is controlled byToronto-based Rose Corp, a merchant bank and property developer, currentlyoperates the city's largest production facilities, a collection of modestsoundstages. TFS had intended to expand into its own considerable backlot butthose plans were on hold until the portlands contest was settled.

The other proposals camefrom near and far, including, paradoxically, a bid from California-basedRaleigh Studios, which operates facilities in LA. Raleigh's president, Mark A.Rosenthal is one of the US industry's most vocal opponents of so-called"runaway" US productions to Canada.