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 Life, The 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.