The film and television production industry’s spending in British Columbia’s economy in 2020 remained impressive despite the challenging economic and restrictive workplace conditions as a result of the pandemic.
Based on the Vancouver Economic Commission’s (VEC) newly released annual report on Hollywood North’s economic spin-offs, a total of $ 3.4 billion has been spent directly by the local BC film, television, post-production and animation industries.
Productions ceased in the spring of 2020, but by the fall of 2020 – due to the backlog and the relatively low number of coronavirus cases in BC compared to other jurisdictions in North America at the time – they were fully ramped up to levels that were busier than before Pandemic.
Total spin-offs for 2020 are down 16.6% year-over-year from the all-time record of $ 4.1 billion in 2019, but VEC said that level exceeded the industry’s most optimistic expectations. This was also only less than the 2017 total, within a decade-long growth path.
The industry also paid more than $ 1.9 billion in local wages in 2020 and was one of the few sectors of British Columbia’s economy to be in full swing in the second half of the year. It provided employment to a total of 65,000 people across the province.
“There is no doubt that the industry was a lifeline for many British Columbians during the pandemic, but let’s not forget that BC talent, creatives and workers were, in turn, a lifeline for the industry as a whole, especially with so many disruptions in other global film centers, ”Geoff Teoli, Vancouver’s acting film commissioner under VEC, said in a statement.
As for live action TV series in 2020, BC recorded a total of 48 in 2020, a 30% increase over the previous year. However, Ontario’s increasingly competitive industry is catching up with a total of 25 script series in 2020, a 67% year-over-year increase.
According to the VEC, the industry’s animation subsector largely stayed afloat during the worst shutdown of the pandemic last year, with visual effects and animation companies switching thousands of their employees to a temporary model of work from home almost immediately.
BC’s industry has also been a major global benefactor of increased spending on productions from streaming giants Netflix, Disney +, Apple TV +, and Amazon Prime. Their analysis of the Cities Film LA in 2020 found that BC accounted for two-thirds of all new streaming projects in Canada.
During the pandemic, these streaming giants continued to expand their physical presence in Metro Vancouver as well.
In August 2021, Walt Disney Animation Studios announced that they would be opening a large production center in Vancouver in early 2022. Moana. This would be the only Disney animation studio in the world outside of Burbank.
In the same month, global visual effects and animation giant Double Negative announced that it was creating 150 new jobs in the animation division of its Vancouver office.
Both Vancouver and Toronto were seriously considered by Netflix for its coveted Canadian headquarters, and the streamer finally decided in April 2021 that it had chosen Toronto.
But Netflix will continue to have a large and growing presence in BC. Just months earlier, in September 2020, Netflix announced that it had signed a long-term lease for approximately 178,000 square feet of manufacturing facilities in the Canadian Motion Picture Park in South Burnaby, including seven audio stages. This is equivalent to Netflix’s investment in production space in Toronto in 2019.
“The outlook is encouraging – the demand for crews, talent and films has not slowed in the region,” continued Teoli. “We need to ensure that support for this important industry remains stable at all levels as the economy reopens and we ramp up activity.”
In the short and long term, Metro Vancouver will need large new additional manufacturing facilities to compete with the Ontario, Georgia and California industries. Studio production capacity in Toronto continues to grow, allowing Ontario’s industry to gain more market share in Hollywood.
The lack of large manufacturing space in Metro Vancouver is an ongoing challenge as studios resort to converting traditional warehouses and other industrial buildings for use.
But renovations are also becoming more and more demanding due to the scarcity of space in the region. According to CBRE’s report for the third quarter of 2021, Metro Vancouver has effectively run out of industrial space, with overall availability falling to a record low of 0.9%, which is also driving up rents. Much of this shortage is concentrated in larger spaces that would be suitable for studios and compete with other highly demanded uses for logistics and warehousing.
Although 6.3 million m² of industrial space is currently under construction, almost three quarters have already been pre-let, and more than half of the remaining space is in the negotiation stage.
A number of remodeled and new purpose studio facilities are planned in Metro Vancouver, but they are likely years away.
Bridge Studios is planning a new additional manufacturing center for the 19 acre site at 3131 Lake City Way, adjacent to the Lake City Way SkyTrain station, which is currently used by a large warehouse.
A smaller facility is also being planned by Bridge Studios for 7705 Griffiths Drive – a 5 acre property north of SkyTrain’s operations and maintenance center in Edmonds. The existing Maple Leaf self storage structures on the site are being demolished for a new, purpose-built facility.
In early 2021, the city of Burnaby initiated a procurement process for the long-term rental and sale of a 17-acre, city-owned, vacant, light industrial property in the Big Bend industrial estate. The city government is specifically looking for proposals that encourage job creation, particularly offices and film and television production studios. This process for the land was triggered by Keltic Canada Development’s interest in developing the site into a “world class studio”.
In September 2019, Martini Film Studios (MFS) announced plans to expand to build Canada’s largest film production studio on a 25-acre 216 business park near the 216th Street interchange on Highway 1 in Langley. It will have over 600,000 m² of sound stages, offices and production buildings, at least half of which will be used as sound stages.