Developers argue for $35 million movie studio in Greater Sudbury
Cultural Industries Ontario North is working to get a 116,000 square foot film studio started in Greater Sudbury and met with City Council on Tuesday to share its proposal, noting that it is not currently asking for money or assistance, but could in the future
Committed to bringing next-level film and television production to Greater Sudbury, Cultural Industries Ontario North is promoting a $35 million film studio project in the city.
Called Freshwater Production Studios, the facility is set to be built on the now canceled Kingsway Entertainment District site on The Kingsway. It is to be 116,000 square feet in size and include three sound stages, offices and other ancillary spaces for film and television productions.
The studio was proposed by the nonprofit Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION), which was represented by executive director Tammy Frick and CEI Management senior consultant Edith Myers at Tuesday’s city council meeting.
They spoke at the invitation of the Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo, and clarified at the meeting that they are not currently seeking municipal funding.
That could change, however, with a motion passed unanimously by city council asking staff to prepare an analysis of the proposal for council consideration alongside research into other film studios’ relationships with city governments to a report by the end of the year.
“He understands the role municipal governments have played in establishing or operating movie studios in other Canadian cities, so what is the standard across the country and industry?” Jakubo asked his colleagues while outlining the intent of his motion.
Frick asked Jakubo to serve on an ad hoc committee for the proposed studio over a year ago, which the adviser told Sudbury.com he was happy to do.
“I could see the massive economic impact filming is already having in our community, and this project has incredible potential to grow exponentially,” he said. “Anytime anyone wants to talk about serious job growth for our city, I’m in.”
In their presentation to city council, Frick and Myers estimated that the new studio would create 1,384 jobs by year five and bring $60 million in new revenue to local businesses.
“These aren’t just any jobs, they’re cool jobs where our young people, in particular, can get great work experience,” Jakubo told Sudbury.com.
During their impassioned presentation, Myers pointed out that these jobs are well paid with an average salary of over $60,000 and plenty of opportunities for upward mobility.
“If you’re smart, you’re a go-getter, you’ll get ahead in this world and have a really good career,” Myers said.
With the Greater Sudbury Airport nearby, plenty of land to develop and an existing film industry in the area, she said Nickel City is a prime location for Freshwater Production Studios to locate.
“When someone first told me that they were going to put a movie studio in Sudbury, I was pretty skeptical, but I have become a strong supporter of this project and now is the time for Sudbury and the north to have a facility like this,” she said.
While other movie studios have been announced across Northern Ontario as renovations to existing buildings, including those in North Bay and Sault Ste. Marie, she said that the studio they have proposed for Greater Sudbury will be a purpose-built facility.
“Having a purpose-built studio will be more of an asset,” she said. “It really provides the means by which production can take place, and that’s really important as things get more complicated.”
High-profile productions for TV shows such as “Star Trek Discovery,” currently filming in Toronto, require purpose-built facilities, and Myers noted that production staff will have far fewer traffic issues in Greater Sudbury than he currently knows of none in the south.
A centrally located studio in Greater Sudbury would serve productions throughout Northern Ontario, Frick said, adding that a “purpose-built facility is very different from a retrofitted facility.”
“A movie shooting area might have 1,000 people working there and wires running everywhere…and there’s a lot of electricity going through those wires, and it can be very dangerous if the power supply isn’t is not adequate,” Myers said. , adding a purpose-built facility will have this capability.
With plenty of parking at the planned 24-acre site on The Kingsway and a proposal to back the studio with a film rental company, she said it was a prime location to host the filming center of the region.
In a city government report, it is noted that there were 141 film/television productions in Greater Sudbury between 2012 and 2021, in which $200 million was spent locally (about half of their budgets total) and 3,725 local teams were hired.
“Recent research conducted by Nordicity indicated that demand for studio space will exceed supply over the next several years,” according to the report.
“Greater Sudbury is home to a base of qualified local teams, representing half of the estimated team working in the North. Although their residence may be in town, these individuals will often travel across the region to work under contract for film projects.
The city is moving forward with exploring a potential partnership with Freshwater Production Studios. and Shoresy.
Northern Ontario Film Studios also operates in Greater Sudbury and has called the former Barrydowne Arena home since 2012 under repeated three-year leases with the city. BRB Studio in Coniston has over 3,200 square feet of studio space and caters to smaller productions.
A video featuring a conceptual rendition of the proposed Freshwater Production Studios facility can be viewed by clicking here.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.