Saturday, March 05, 2005

Toronto Film Festival's new home

Toronto Film Festival's new complex slated to receive federal mega-funds indicating Toronto is no longer just another low-cost shooting location as "North Hollywood" but is given confidence as true trend-setter as an international film centre.
From Friday's online "The Star Newspaper > Movies Section

Architect's illustration of new film festival headquarters, which will be topped with a condo building. Posted by Hello

$25M boost for festival's new home


The Ontario government has committed $25 million to kick-start a year-round dream home for the Toronto International Film Festival, the Toronto Star has learned.
"Dalton McGuinty is totally committed to our project," said Piers Handling, chief executive of the festival, in an exclusive interview yesterday. "The government has put us through a rigorous process of going over our numbers and the premier totally understands that Festival Centre will be of great value to the whole province."
The five-storey podium-style $122-million Festival Centre, designed by the architecture firm KPMB, is part of a complex to be built on the site of a parking lot at the corner of King and John Sts. in the Entertainment District.
The project is partnered with Hollywood producer Ivan Reitman (his family has owned the parking lot for years) and the Daniels Group (a high-end Toronto real estate developer). The building will include a 41-storey tower. The festival will occupy the lower five floors with 36 levels of condo units above it.
Plans for the development were announced in 2003 with great fanfare, but the original 2006 completion date proved unrealistic. Donors were not lining up to pour money in the project and it has taken two years for the project to gather momentum.
The centre will include four screening rooms and a large exhibition space, as well as office space for festival staff and housing the festival's reference library. This will allow the festival to be more of a year-round operation — the goal of making Toronto an international film capital 365 days a year instead of just 10 days.
The upshot: economic impact would climb from the festival's current level of $67 million to $200 million a year, the festival estimates.
"We are hoping to finish the building in 2008," Handling said, but what will depend on a number of factors, including private fundraising, the condo market and securing another $25 million from Ottawa.
From the start it was clear Festival Centre could not proceed without major government support and despite expectations of a joint announcement of equal contributions from the two levels of government, Liza Frulla, the federal heritage minister, is not ready to make an announcement.
"We have been lobbying like crazy in Ottawa," said Handling, "but as of this moment we cannot announce a federal commitment."
According to Allison Bain, the festival's associate managing director, just under $70 million has been raised toward a goal of $196 million — which would cover the cost of the building and include about $50 million for an endowment fund and $20 million for transitional operating expenses.
Reitman and the Daniels Group are contributing a minimum of $10 million in land value. Visa, a longtime festival corporate sponsor, has pledged $3.8 million. And one major Hollywood studio, Universal, is contributing $1.5 million. The festival is not ready to reveal the names of people and companies who have donated the rest of the money.
The next goal is finding a $30 million lead donor, who would take naming rights for the building.
"It sends a huge message to other donors that the province is onboard," said Handling.
"This is not a charitable donation," said Bain. "When it comes to the economic health of this province, we are part of the solution. The key people at Queen's Park understand that and they have made a smart and good decision."


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