Toronto's long-awaited mega-studio, Filmport Studios, was officially opened today. Filmmaker David Cronenberg was on hand for the event alongside Toronto mayor David Miller and Filmport president Ken Ferguson.

The facility is the largest studio complex outside of Los Angeles and lays claim to the continent's largest purpose-built sound stage: 45,900 sq. ft with more than an acre of column-free space below a 6-storey high lighting grid. In all, its over 250,000 sq. ft of production space encompasses seven studios. It also claims to be the most technologically advanced, with miles of fibre optic cable laid in anticipation of direct to hard-drive digital video recording. Filmport is expected to grow to 3m sq. ft over the three phases of development over 47 acres in Toronto's rehabilitated eastern lakefront district.

'The completion of Phase 1 of Filmport is significant,' said Mayor Miller in a statement, 'It will provide a huge boost to Toronto's screen-based industries by creating opportunities for our highly skilled work force. This new project will also enhance the city's international reputation and will help support a prosperous and creative Toronto.'

The greatest challenge facing the facility, at least in the short term, is the continuing strength of the Canadian dollar relative to the US dollar. ($1 = C$1.06). The facility was designed with giant US-financed production in mind. Thus far no major production has officially signed on as tenant, although George Romero has rented office space for his Diary Of The Dead 2. Another issue is the continuing saga of the SAG negotiations.

In that sense, Filmport isn't alone. Studios in Montreal and Vancouver are also suffering a slow down.