Canada’s massive television and film production sector is grinding to a halt in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.
According to the City of Toronto, there were 16 films and series shooting in the city this past week. On Friday, The Globe and Mail learned of at least six that were suspending production.
The postponed projects range from Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s new feature Nightmare Alley, starring Bradley Cooper and produced by the Disney-owned Fox Searchlight, to the Universal boxing drama Flint Strong to the big-budget Apple TV+ fantasy series See, starring Jason Momoa.
American network CBS has suspended production on all three of the TV pilots that it was filming in the city – Good Sam, ViCap and Langdon. (Langdon is a prequel to author Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code franchise.)
“I fully expect every production we have to shut down,” Jim Mirkopoulos, vice-president of Cinespace Film Studios, told The Globe.
“We see these production postponements as prudent measures, commensurate with steps already taken in many other industries,” Mr. Mirkopoulos added. “We have no doubt that most, if not all, of these projects will return to Ontario to resume their productions when things normalize.”
According to the City of Toronto, production investments in film, television, digital and commercials contributed $1.96-billion to the local economy in 2018. That same year, 1,412 projects were shot in the city, with the industry supporting about 30,000 jobs.
Pinewood Toronto Studios, which is set to become the country’s largest production facility once it has added 170,000 square feet to its complex next year, would not comment on whether projects have dropped out, with a spokesperson saying that Pinewood was “continuing to follow guidance set out by the government, and the studios remain fully operational.”
Netflix and Warner Bros Television Group have both announced shutdowns linked to the coronavirus, as the companies suspended production on projects across North America. The move affects hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in production in Canada.
Earlier this week, Warner Bros. announced a shutdown of the series Riverdale, shot in the Vancouver region, after a “team member” on the show came in contact with someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus.
“With the rapidly changing events related to COVID-19, and out of an abundance of caution, Warner Bros. Television Group is halting production on some of our 70+ series and pilots currently filming or about to begin," a statement from the company said.
Warner said there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on any productions, but they are acting in the interests of the health and safety of employees, casts and crew. Other Warner series filmed in B.C. include The Flash and Batwoman. Asked how long the shutdown will last, Warner spokesman Jeff Tobler said he had no further information to provide at this time.
A Netflix spokesperson said their shutdown, affecting scripted projects, will last two weeks.
TV series in general have been a job-creating boon in British Columbia. A Motion Picture Association-Canada study of the series Arrow suggested five seasons of the show created 7,087 jobs and generated $360.8-million in direct production spending. Production on the most recent season of Riverdale was equivalent to the jobs created by 18 cruise-ship sailings from the Port of Vancouver.
B.C.’s culture ministry issued a statement Friday saying it’s too early to determine the impact of COVID-19 on the economy: “We are asking film and TV producers to make timely decisions around the health and welfare of their employees. To support workers, we welcome the initial measures from the federal government including the elimination of the one-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits.”