City to divest from Calgary Film Centre as industry sees more activity

The City of Calgary says it will now divest from the Calgary Film Centre, after spending $13.5 million in 2018 to take ownership of the facility and pay down its debt.

“The industry is flourishing and there is increased demand and competition for studio space, so the time is right to explore a sale,” Calgary Film Centre board chair Patricia McLeod said in a release.

Since the city took over, the facility has been managed by Calgary Film Centre Ltd., a subsidiary of Calgary Economic Development.

“Calgary Economic Development and The City were never intended to run the Film Centre over the long term, and it will develop further when owned by a private-sector player,” McLeod said.

City council approved exploring the sale of the Film Centre on May 10 and the city has now retained Ernst & Young to help with the sale process.

The city’s goal is to complete the sale by before the end of the year.

The Calgary Film Centre, which includes three purpose-built sound stages, warehouse and workshop facilities, opened in May 2016.

The anchor tenant is William F. White International Inc., which provides equipment and production services for movies, television shows, digital media and theatre.

The city initially invested $10 million in the project, along with $5 million from the provincial government and $1 million from William F. White International.

But things got off to a slow start as activity at the film centre was lower than expected in 2017. Its utilization rate per square foot dropped to just 52 per cent that year, down from 65 per cent in 2016.

But activity has since picked up.

“The sound stages have been effectively operating at 100 per cent capacity since shortly after they reopened with strict COVID-19 protocols last June and are fully booked through summer 2022,” the city said in a release.

“The announcement from The Government of Alberta this spring to create a more competitive tax credit program for the industry has provided more impetus for increased production in the region,” it added.

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