B.C. loses Hollywood North crown to Ontario as sector generates $2.8b in 2020

Impact of pandemic yet to be fully measured

Vancouver Film Studios | Photo: Rob Kruyt, BIV

The B.C. film and TV sector will have to forfeit its title as Hollywood North for now after production activity took a hit in the months leading up to the pandemic.

Production volume in B.C. reached $2.88 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year, according to the Canadian Media Producers Association’s (CMPA) Profile 2020 report released Thursday.

That’s down 19% from the $3.4 billion generated in the previous fiscal year.

The latest data reflects economic activity from April 2019 through to the end of March 2020, when the pandemic resulted in a widespread shutdown of productions across Canada and the globe.

“In the months that followed March 2020, other relevant trends have also become visible. Viewing and consumption patterns have been upended. For many, screen-time now means online schooling and video conference calls – not just the act of watching television, going to the cinema or using one’s devices to access content,” the report states. 

“Nevertheless, demand for content seems to have risen sharply. Lockdowns and restrictions have kept people at home, seeking out a wide variety of information and entertainment as a means of coping with pandemic life. In particular, reliance on online streaming services appears to have intensified, although to what degree exactly is difficult to report on until data can be properly collected and analyzed.”

While B.C. outperformed Ontario in 2018-19, the latter province managed to overtake the West Coast this past year with $3.55 billion in production volume.

B.C. accounted for 30% for the total share of production volume in Canada, while Ontario and Quebec accounted for 38% and 25%, respectively.

But overall activity across the country fell 1.1% during the fiscal year examined, representing a decline of about $100 million.

B.C., meanwhile, remained the top destination for foreign productions, generating $2.3 billion in production volume out of the total $3.4 billion.

Domestic productions accounted for $366 million, down 42% from a year earlier.

Canadian theatrical productions in B.C. in particular took a hit, falling from $21 million to $7 million year over year.

It’s unclear the exact number of jobs all this activity represents for the province.

Last year’s report noted that the industry was responsible for 30,400 direct, full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs on the West Coast.

A province by province breakdown was not presented in the latest report.

Instead, Profile 2020 notes that the film and TV sector accounted for 148,640 “estimated number of people employed” this past year — down from a 153,980 person-count a year earlier.

This is the first year the CMPA has eschewed measuring by FTE jobs in favour of an estimated person-count.

“Person-count reflects how employment within the production industry is often on a casual basis with short periods of full-time employment followed by periods of hiatus between projects,” the report states.