New film centre coming to southeast Calgary
After much delay, Calgary’s burgeoning film industry is about to get a major boost.
Approved earlier this year but with roots dating back to 2009, the city’s first major film studio broke ground late last week in a high-profile ceremony ironically set within an unassuming industrial suburb at 5750 76th Ave. S.E.
Spread out over more than three hectares of land, the $23-million facility will include 50,000 square feet of purpose-built sound stages, 20,000 square feet or warehouse space and 15,000 square feet of space for office and storage.
Officials on hand at the ground-breaking ceremony said the studio’s purpose will be to support indigenous, national and international screen-based productions.
“Today’s ground breaking marks a huge step toward making the Calgary Film Centre a reality,” said Calgary Economic Development president and CEO Bruce Graham.
“We have been working closely with our colleagues in the provincial and municipal governments as well as our funding partners to move this project forward. We are excited to see the facility take shape over the next 12 months.”
The ceremony provided a conclusion of sorts to the long-running efforts to bolster Calgary’s filmmaking industry. In 2009, the province announced a $32 million “creative hub” that was later scrapped after funding fell through.
More recently, the redevelopment of Currie Barracks, which had served as interim studio for smaller-scale productions such as CBC’s Heartland, forced companies to look elsewhere for space.
While long a favourite destination for TV and film producers, Calgary has burst onto the big and small screens in recent years with an increasingly number of several high-profile projects coming to the area.
After shooting scenes near Fortress Mountain for Inception – which took home the Academy Award for Best Cinematography – famed director Christopher Nolan recently returned to the area, shooting scenes for the newly released blockbuster Interstellar.
FX Network’s Fargo, renewed for a second season airing in 2015, has also previously transformed downtown Calgary into the snowy Midwest, while AMC’s Hell on Wheels has taken advantage of the area’s western roots in its portrayal of the early Transcontinental Railroad crossing the U.S.
Alberta Culture and Tourism Minister Maureen Kubinec said the new studio will help the film and television industry contribute to the area’s economic prosperity, as well as increase overall awareness of the region.
“Not only does this centre provide much needed infrastructure for Alberta’s screen-based production sector, it opens up an entire new realm of possibilities and opportunities,” she said.
“Productions filmed in Alberta help introduce visitors from across Canada and around the world to our magnificent landscapes and vibrant communities. The Calgary Film Centre is a big step forward to growing and sharing Alberta culture.”
Alberta’s film, television and digital media industry employs more than 3,000 people and, according to Premier Jim Prentice, has generated $400 million in economic activity in Alberta over the last five years.
With the addition of the new centre, Graham expects those numbers to grow even larger.
“The best way I can measure that for you is $150 million is spent in this market today. Our plan in the next three to five years is to grow that $150 million to a quarter-billion-[dollar] industry, and it’ll take the next plateau of film locations certainly in North America,” he said.