The general manger of the new Calgary Film Centre says six Hollywood film and TV projects are now eyeing Calgary as a location, thanks in part to the new state-of-the-art facility that officially opened its doors Thursday after years of planning, fundraising and discussion. Members of the media were offered a sneak-peek tour of the long-awaited centre Thursday morning, a $28.2-million facility in the Calgary’s southeast area that boasts three sound stages with than 50,000 square-feet of interior studio space.
Later in the day, the centre held it official opening in a swanky affair that attracted politicians and hundreds of people from the Alberta film industry.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi also broke the news that Tin Star, a British “western-noir” series starring Christina Hendricks and Tim Roth, will be the first production to christen the new centre. Producers for the series, which will also shoot in High River, announced in March that it would be coming to the province. It will occupy one of the sound stages for more than six months, O’Connor said.
Our first project in here is an international one for a good period of time and it will leave the other two (stages) open,” O’Connor said. “It’s fabulous that we can be ready and open to them and offer the flexibility they need and for the time they need it.
O’Connor said that the recent trade mission to Los Angeles to promote the new facility to major and independent studios was successful in boosting interest and awareness.
Construction of the film centre began in October of 2014, but veterans in the industry say this sort of facility has been planned for decades and was seen as a key missing piece in turning the area in a global destination for TV and film. The facility should lengthen the traditional shooting season in Southern Alberta, which was often limited by our unruly weather. It will also mean that producers will no longer need to search for warehouses and other buildings to shoot interior scenes.
We were the kings and queens of the retrofit,” said Luke Azevedo, Calgary Commissioner for Film, TV and Creative Industries. “We were walking into warehouses where these production companies had to invest money into the facilities themselves. . . So what we’ve done now is create purpose-built facilities that understand all the metrics that are necessary for this industry specifically. They can walk in, they can start setting up and off they go.
Currently, film, TV and creative industries generated approximately $175-million in southern Alberta in 2015. It’s hoped that the new centre will help boost spending to $500-million within the next five years. Funding for The Calgary Film Centre included $5-million from the province, $10-million from the city and $1-million from anchor tenant William F. White International. The rest has been taken on by the Calgary Film Centre Ltd., the non-profit organization formed to run the facility.
On Thursday morning, media took a tour of two of the three sound stages, offering a glimpse not only of the space but some of the film equipment owned by William F. White International, which moved its Calgary operations to the new facility in November.
The three sound-proof stages are 20,575 square-feet, 18,189 square-feet and 12,649 square-feet respectively. The facility also includes more than 15,000 square-feet of warehouse space, which can be used for everything from equipment storage, to lunch rooms, workshop space and hair and-makeup departments.
These studios here, quality-wise, are as good as anything that has ever been built in this country and in the world,” said Paul Bronfman, chairman and CEO William F. White International. “It’s just as good Pinewood in Toronto, just as good as North Shore (Studios in North Vancouver.) There’s not as many stages. But the quality of the stages are second-to-none.
The facility has been built on 76th Ave. SE on 3.4 hectares of land, which means there is plenty of room for expansion. Thursday’s opening represented only the first phase of the centre. An expansion will likely happen soon.
We could have a series come in and want 10.5 months and all three studios and that would block it out completely,” O’Connor said. “Which is why you can see there is a need for expansion here so we can meet the need. I think the market is going to expand and I think the world is going to come to Calgary and make movies.”
Still, O’Connor stressed that the studios are not only for big American or international productions. Local productions will also be a focus, she said.
We are coming out of the gates, we have an economic model we have to meet, some economic targets that have to be met right off the bat, but … it’s very important that we work with the post-secondaries and work for program and content creation and make sure we have a space here at the Calgary Film Centre for the next generation to come and for indigenous and local producers,” said O’Connor. “So anytime that there is space in between, we’re happy to block that out if it makes sense.