MX MOVIES

Movie Studio Development

MOVIE STUDIO DEVELOPMENT

MX MOVIES film production teams are expert in movie studio development.

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MOVIE AND TV PRODUCERS have seized approximately 28.9% of all the industrial space leased in Metro Vancouver in 2018, often outbidding traditional tenants to become the dominant player in a tight market. The unprecedented demand from the $3.6 billion film industry (2018) in British Columbia, which has leased more than 1.5 million square feet since mid-2015, has helped to drive the Metro Vancouver industrial vacancy rate to 1.4% — even tighter, compared to the rate of 1.7% last year. Buoyed by high demand but low supply, industrial rental rates increased by 16% in 2018 to $11.86/square foot, marking the highest market average rate on record in the region.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Nearly a third of Metro Vancouver industrial space is leased by film productions.

Vancouver industrial space rentals see world’s largest rate increase of almost 30%

The rate to lease industrial and logistics space in Vancouver saw an increase of 29.1% in the first quarter of 2018, making it the largest increase in the world for these type of spaces. CBRE’s Global Industrial and Logistics Prime Rents report notes that a lack of vacant supply and high demand is behind the high year-over-year growth, which was an all-time high for the city. In contrast, the global average increase was just 3.2% year-over-year. Neighbouring Seattle and Oakland also saw significant growth at 13.4% and 14%, respectively, for reasons like Vancouver’s market, with limited supply and strong demand for third-party logistics, food distribution, building supplies, and consumer goods. In Vancouver’s case, the shortage is further exacerbated by the booming film industry’s need for large production studios in warehouse-like spaces.

The British Columbia Film Industry and Industrial Real Estate

The film industry has completely changed the real estate market in British Columbia, due to film producers’ demand for short leases and a willingness to pay above-market rates.  British Columbia’s creative sector, which includes film, television and interactive media, generates $4 billion in annual GDP and supports 85,000 jobs. Creative BC has declared that the industry is now shoulder-to-shoulder with other industrial sectors such as mining, agriculture and forestry.

Industrial tenants traditionally sign three-, five- or ten- year lease agreements, but film shoots need studio space for only about six months. As a result, TV and film companies are paying full lease rates and up to $1 per square foot above that, and even signing two-year agreements to secure the space. They then either hold the site for a second shoot or attempt to sublease the space to another film company.

The film producers are scrambling for high ceiling heights in no-column open warehouses of at least 40,000 square feet with enough bay space to turn big trucks – the same type of modern buildings sought by the next biggest industrial tenants: retail/wholesale distributors and logistics/transport companies. The film industry’s biggest challenge is finding space with high ceilings, wide column spacing, parking and proximity to downtown Vancouver.

B.C. film production values increased to $3.6 billion in fiscal year 2018-2019 compared to $3.4 billion in fiscal year 2017-2018, $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2016-2017, $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2015-2016, $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2014-2015, and $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2013-2014 , with the incentive being fed by a lower Canadian dollar and a near doubling of provincial tax credits to the film industry. Because they are refundable tax credits, film companies receive the credit even when they pay little or no tax to government. The largesse is considered a key component in attracting film productions.

Film Studios, Production Companies and Industrial Real Estate

There are two main types of users of industrial real estate associated with the film and television industry. The first, film and television studios (hereafter referred to as “Movie Studios”), may lease or own industrial real estate. The second are film and television production companies (hereafter referred to as “Production Companies”), which lease industrial real estate, usually from studios, but sometimes directly from landlords.

There are currently approximately 3.5 million sq. ft. of production space in the region, with older purpose-built facilities accounting for much of this space. Major purpose-built studios include:

  • Canadian Motion Picture Park in South Burnaby (350,000 sq. ft. total, including 18 soundstages)
  • Vancouver Film Studios in East Vancouver (approximately 350,000 sq. ft. total, including 12 soundstages)
  • Bridge Studios in Burnaby’s Brentwood Area (150,000 sq. ft. across 13 soundstages, not including supporting spaces)
  • North Shore Studios in North Vancouver District (152,000 sq. ft. total, including eight sound stages)

Local developer Larco owns Bridge Studios, previously a property of provincial crown corporation Pavco, while Bosa Development owns both North Shore Studios and the converted Mammoth Studios (261,000 sq. ft. across three soundstages) near Burnaby’s Forest Grove area.

In, 2006, real estate developer Bosa Development Corporation expanded its presence in Vancouver’s film production industry by buying Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation’s North Shore Studios for about $42 million. Already one of British Columbia’s largest property developers, Bosa planned to operate the studio in much the same way as its other commercial properties, by leasing space to clients – in this case in the movie sector – that want to use it. Bosa wanted to be the premier provider of production space to the film and television sector in British Columbia and making such an acquisition was driven by British Columbia’s skilled film work force of about 35,000 at that time, tax incentives to the movie sector and proximity to major studios in Los Angeles. Lions Gate Entertainment decided to sell the studios because they could raise cash from the sale of non-core assets (the studios), which was accounting for under 2% of Lions Gate’s yearly revenue. The majority of their revenue was coming from the production and distribution of feature films and television programming, so Lions Gate Entertainment chose to focus on the core creation and distribution businesses. When the sale closed, Bosa had planned to add the 14-acre (5.6-hectare) North Shore site, including eight soundstages and associated infrastructure, to its existing operations, which include the Mammoth studio in Burnaby. Bosa was already successful in leasing production space to the film companies and wanted to grow in that sector.

Bosa has proven that developing a movie studio is a prosperous business model. Film production studio space is high in demand and low in supply. Purchasing land to develop into new movie studios is the perfect plan for developers who wish to earn stable and consistent revenue.

Martini Film Studios’ (MFS) new 600,000 sq. ft. purpose-built, world-class facility in Metro Vancouver will be the largest film and production studio in Canada and one of North America’s biggest. MFS announced on September 7, 2019 it will be a tenant of the new 80-acre Langley 216 Business Park that will be constructed next to Highway 1’s new 216th Street interchange in Langley Township’s Walnut Grove area. The studio’s parent company is the owner of the entire business park property. The film and production studio component will account for 25 acres of 216 Business Park, creating 600,000 sq. ft. of soundstages, offices, and production support buildings. At least 300,000 sq. ft. of the floor area will be purposed as soundstages. The project is currently undergoing detailed design and planning based on industry and client consultation, and it will provide synergies with MFS’ nearby studio facilities. MFS first opened in Metro Vancouver in 2017 with warehouse-to-studio converted facilities, totalling 250,000 sq. ft. at 9390-9390 198th Street and 19714 96th Avenue near Highway 1’s 200 Street interchange in Langley City.

Upon the completion of the new facility, MFS will more than triple its current size and capacity, and become the largest provider of film studio facilities in the region. It is estimated Metro Vancouver’s film and television production capacity will increase by up to 15% as a result of the new 216th Street studio location. “We’ve enjoyed phenomenal support from our industry partners and the entertainment community since launching Martini Film Studios,” said Gemma Martini, founder and CEO of MFS, in a statement. MFS has a close partnership with Netflix; its existing facilities are currently being used for productions such as Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Another Life. TBS’ new Snowpiercer dystopian thriller television series, also filmed at MFS, starring Jennifer Connelly and Daveed Diggs, will premiere in spring 2020, and it has already been renewed for a second season. “It’s been an incredible experience. Space is in huge demand, and with the industry thriving and the growth potential for the film and television business across all of BC, we’re proud to expand our services for the sector,” continued Martini. The growth of local production activity in recent years has far outpaced available studio space.

According to the Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC), the film and television industry’s total spending in BC more than doubled from $1.6 billion in 2012 to $3.8 billion in 2018, making the province the third largest production centre in North America, just behind California and New York State. In 2017, the industry’s total payroll in BC totalled $2.06 billion.

Based on Creative BC’s similar account of local industry activity, during the 2017-18 fiscal year there were 452 productions, including 289 productions by non-BC and foreign companies and 163 productions by BC-based creators. “Vancouver is one of the world’s top film hubs, and continues to be a great draw for the international production community,” said David Shepheard, director of the VEC’s Vancouver Film Commission. “It attracts billions of dollars of investment every year, and creates thousands of diverse jobs for the local community. Facilities such as Martini Film Studios help boost that reputation, and this new, state-of-the-art studio expansion is a much-needed addition to local production infrastructure.”

Prominent Vancouver-based producer Justis Greene, known for his work in TRON: LEGACY, Another LifeThe Order, and Bates Motel, added: “The Martini investment into stage expansion comes at a critical time — the Vancouver industry has never felt busier, or more crowded.” “Although producers are practiced at stowing productions in unusual crannies, and at converting underused space, feature projects and series are known to make decisions hinging on whether there are suitable soundstages available to facilitate their show. If you don’t have the factory, you won’t get the product.”  For instance, prior to redevelopment construction, the old Canada Post building in downtown Vancouver was used as a make-shift studio space for largely Netflix and Amazon productions.

Upon the completion of the new facility, MFS will more than triple its current size and capacity, and become the largest provider of film studio facilities in the region. It is estimated Metro Vancouver’s film and television production capacity will increase by up to 15% as a result of the new 216th Street studio location. MFS’ new production hub at 216th Street will be the first new major purpose-built film and television production studio in Metro Vancouver in about two decades.

While a number of other major studio facilities have opened over the years, these have largely been accomplished as warehouse-to-studio converted facilities, such as the 2016-opened Skydance Studios in Surrey, which turned the former Kennedy Heights Printing Plant into 75,000 sq. ft. of production space, including five soundstages.

The new MFS studio will also be larger than the plan to expand Pinewood Toronto Studios to 525,000 sq. ft., the under-construction, 400,000-sq-ft First Studio City Markham Movieland, and the new 260,000-sq-ft CBS Mississauga Studio.

Movie Studios

Movie studios are typically local companies and hold industrial real estate with the intent to license the space to production companies while providing a host of additional industry-specific services. Some of the studios currently operating in Metro Vancouver include The Crossing Studios, Vancouver Film Studios, Canadian Motion Picture Park, Bridge Studios, North Shore and Mammoth Studios. The older, more established studios tend to own their facilities instead of leasing them, such as Vancouver Film Studios, Bridge Studios, North Shore and Mammoth Studios; these companies have well-capitalized parent companies including The McLean Group, Larco Investments Ltd. and Bosa Development Corporation. In contrast, the newer, but perhaps more entrepreneurial and fast-moving studios tend to lease their facilities. It is the newer studios like The Crossing Studios that are able to accommodate current demand because the traditional studios are at capacity. Productions created for the digital streaming market are being made much more quickly and with more elaborate and complex sets for film series.

Production Companies

Production companies can be local or foreign, but are typically from Southern California and around Los Angeles. Some examples of production companies include Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, Lifetime, Fox, N.B.C. and Alcon Entertainment. Studios are able to provide several services to a production company that help make a facility “move-in ready” on a short time frame including furniture, IT set-up, property and facility management services (typically far faster than a normal Landlord would provide), lighting, soundproofing and demising, among other things. The speed at which these kinds of services can be provided to production companies is of utmost importance since the film industry works at an exceptionally fast pace. A production company will often pay a premium to lease space through a studio because they can occupy a property for only the period of time they require it, secure consecutive short-term options to renew, occupy a facility fully furnished with no maintenance, and have a team of staff on-hand to immediately deal with any issues with IT, services, or the facility.

Tax Incentives

Film and television productions are typically highly mobile and are often very flexible with respect to their filming location. Given that the film and television industry is ultimately a profit-driven business, whichever region offers the best overall value (taking into account cost, local talent, filming locations, and existing film infrastructure) will win the business. A significant part of the equation of offering the best value to film and television productions comes from tax incentives, which reduce the overall cost to the bottom line of a production. This process of trying to court film and television productions is highly competitive. Traditionally, this competition has been between Hollywood and “Hollywood North” given similar time zones and the relatively close distance of Vancouver to Los Angeles. However, the last ten to fifteen years have seen competition become rampant within Canada, within the United States, as well as between the United States and Canada. British Columbia’s film and television tax credits are labour-based credits, meaning the tax credit rate applies specifically to a production’s British Columbia labour costs, which effectively reduces these costs. Provincial tax credits for film and television productions in B.C. averaged approximately $255 million per year over the period of 2010/11 to 2013/14 when the Canadian and US dollar were near parity. However, with the recent weakening of the Canadian dollar, foreign production activity increased by over 46% from approximately
$1.08 billion in 2013/14 to $1.574 billion in 2015/16. In fiscal year 2017-2018, foreign location and service production increased 31.5 percent, to $3.04-billion, from the previous year. With the immense support of Warner Bros., known as “Vancouver’s biggest TV client”, the television industry in the city is also booming with production on shows including The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl.

The “Netflix Effect”

Another substantial driver of the film and television industry’s demand for industrial real estate is due to the “Netflix Effect”. The “Netflix Effect” refers to the proliferation of original streaming content in order to capture market share between the different streaming delivery providers, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and CraveTV. In 2016, Netflix spent approximately $5 billion on content and planned to invest over $6 billion in 2017 on a profit and loss basis. Amazon Prime Video’s content budget for 2016 was estimated to be between $4 billion and $5 billion, but the cost of their planned international expansion to nearly 200 countries could have driven the figure up another $1 billion to $2 billion in 2017. This proliferation in spending for content, some of which is original content and some of which is for content acquisition, has caused a substantial increase in demand for industrial buildings suitable for these productions, bolstering the overall demand for industrial space. Although the exact percentage of each streaming provider’s budget that is allocated to producing original content has not been disclosed, Netflix has said, “Given the success we’ve had with our original series, we are increasing our investment in this area and we expect the % of our content spend on original series to increase over time. This increased investment generally replaces spend on other content deals, although our overall content spend is expected to increase in absolute dollar terms”. Film production is continuous throughout the year, not seasonal. Major movie studios including Warner Bros., Fox, Disney and Universal plus streaming companies including Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Netflix plus British Columbia’s top tier animation and VFX cluster that includes Sony, Disney/Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Deluxe Encore and Animal Logic have created billions of dollars for the film industry in British Columbia.

MX MOVIES

Ideal Film Production Building Specifications

  • Minimum 24’ clear ceiling height (the higher, the better). Preferably 40′ clear ceiling height.
  • Minimum 30’ x 30’ column spacing (less columns or clear span preferred)
  • Ample existing office areas or ability to expand office areas
  • Ample parking whether in a parking lot or loading court for regular vehicles and trailers
  • Fibre optic internet connection or similar
  • Soundproof building construction or ability to soundproof
  • Building footprint to allow flexible demising configurations; each sound stage will typically be between 10,000 – 30,000 SF
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MOVIE STUDIO DEVELOPMENT

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Our team of professionals in the film industry is happy to assist you with your questions and work as your consultant in developing your movie studio. We will request a ConfidentiaLity Agreement and an Engagement Agreement to be signed before further discussion due to the confidential nature of the information shared and the detailed navigation of your process in building a purpose-built movie studio, warehouse conversion, or FX and broadcast stages.

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