Toronto could start charging for film permits after years of offering them for free
Filming in Toronto has become a booming business and while the city has long given productions a free ride, that is about to change.
A production crew must apply for permits to film on city streets and parks and often require street closures.
The closures may be a hassle for some but many people welcome the productions and like spotting stars such as Jason Momoa or watching the red cloaks of the Handmaid's Tale or seeing familiar Toronto locations in the Queen's Gambit.
Toronto passed a bylaw to offer free permits in 1999 "as a way to attract a more nascent industry, when production levels were a fraction of what they are today, and charging for permits would have been considered a jurisdictional disadvantage," according to a city report.
In 1999, Toronto decided to make film permits free as a means of attracting productions to the city. 22 years and lots of movies & TV shows later, the city is proposing the introduction of some (modest) fees. Expected to bring in about $876K a year. https://t.co/mzR52sEwvM pic.twitter.com/6TnxizFonm— Matt Elliott (@GraphicMatt) September 15, 2021
But the industry is now booming and expected to grow by 63 per cent in the next five years, increasing the footprint and presence of the industry in Toronto.
"Over twenty years later, Toronto is one of the top production jurisdictions in North America, and is currently experiencing record-breaking production volume," the report states.
Currently, the film industry contributes over $2.2 billion annually to Toronto's economy and employs more than 35,000 Toronto residents.
The growth of the industry means more human and financial resources will be needed in the Film Office.
The city's Economic Development and Culture department is proposing adding permit fees starting in April 2022.
The fees would range from $500 for a road closure to $200 for a park permit and $300 for a location permit. Some permits would remain free for local news and students.
The fees could generate more than $800,000 a year.
Revenue generated from the fees would go to the Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Transportation Services departments and around $614,000 in revenue would go to Economic Development and Culture to support the needs of the film industry in 2022.
The Film Office now has a team of 11 employees, including two managers, and the office can issue permits in 48 hours - the fastest service time in North America, according to the report.
They also offer a concierge service "that is greatly valued on productions."
The fee proposal will go to the Economic and Community Development Committee on Sept. 22 and, if passed, will go to city council on Oct. 1 for final approval.
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