Canada was the number one production location for feature films in 2017 for the first time, according to a new report from FilmL.A., the official film office of the Greater Los Angeles Region.
The FilmL.A. Feature Film Study annually researches the top 100 feature films released at the U.S. domestic box office during the calendar year, looking at primary and secondary filming locations and post-production/VFX work, production spending and jobs.
In 2017, Canada was the top location for 20 of the surveyed films, replacing Georgia which claimed the top spot in 2016. Within Canada, the top provinces hosting those films were British Columbia (11 films), Ontario (7), Quebec (1) and Manitoba (1).
They included Academy Award Best Picture winner The Shape of Water (Toronto), Molly’s Game (Toronto), Fifty Shades Darker (Vancouver), Wonder (Vancouver), A Dog’s Purpose (Winnipeg), and animated offerings like Smurfs: The Lost Village (Vancouver) and The Emoji Movie (Vancouver).
The report credits the value of the 77-cent Canadian dollar, which effectively creates an automatic 25 per cent savings for U.S. producers, combined with federal and provincial film incentives.
“For cost conscious filmmakers, the deals in Canada have been too good to ignore,” notes FilmL.A. “As a result of the synergistic savings created by extremely competitive incentives and the beneficial exchange rate, foreign production spending in Canada has exploded to record highs, going from $2.64 billion (CAD) in 2016 to $3.75 billion in 2017.”
The report also notes that despite reductions in the base labor production credit in B.C., from 33 per cent to 28, and the all-spend production incentive in Ontario from 25 to 21.5 per cent, the favourable exchange rate more than offset what it terms “relatively minor” reductions. Incentives for VFX services are even higher.
Reynolds Mastin, president and CEO of the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA), says while the attraction of international productions to Canada can be explained by a combination of factors, including amazing filming locations, best-in-class infrastructure and competitive federal and provincial tax credits, the talent within the Canadian production industry shouldn’t be undersold.
“But most importantly, what attracts foreign productions to Canada are the incredibly talented and experienced individuals that work both behind and in front of the camera,” Mastin told Broadcast Dialogue.
Georgia was the second most-popular feature film shooting location, tied with the U.K. in 2017 with 15 films. However, the U.K. ranked first in total budget value and budget spend within its borders for the third year in a row. California finished the year in fourth place, with 10 films produced primarily in the state. From a national perspective, the U.S. served as the primary production location for 50 per cent of the top 100 films at the domestic box office in 2017, the lowest share for the U.S. since FilmL.A. began tracking in 2013.
The Canadian numbers for 2017 do not include War for the Planet of the Apes. While the film did the vast majority of its principal photography in B.C. (where it spent more than $81 million CAD filming over 180 days), the production spent more money – $131.5 million NZD – on VFX in New Zealand.