William F. White Buys Studio City Toronto as Film Soundstage Consolidation Heats Up

William F. White Buys Studio City Toronto as Film Soundstage Consolidation Heats Up

William F. White International has acquired Studio City Toronto, an iconic studio complex in the city’s downtown east end that over the years played host to shoots for My Big Fat Greek Wedding, X-Men and the Oscar winner Spotlight.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the purchase of the 148,000 square foot studio by William F. White-parent Sunbelt Rentals and completed on Dec. 2 is understood to have followed a bidding war. The acquisition, which includes Studio City Rentals, gets William F. White’s total owned or managed studio production space across Canada to 1.55 million square feet.

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“We are excited to welcome Studio City Toronto as well as Studio City Rentals to the William F. White and Sunbelt Rentals family. For our clients, these acquisitions are the perfect complement to our business as we continue to deliver world-class studio space and production equipment to the local and international film and television industry,” Garin Josey, executive vp and COO of William F. White, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Studio City Toronto soundstages, part of the former Showline Studios built in 1988 and acquired by the City of Toronto in 2017, have also played host to location shoots for Netflix’s Luckiest Girl Alive, CBC’s Strays and Kim’s Convenience, The Expanse for Alcon Entertainment and Amazon, and CBS’s Rabbit Hole, starring Kiefer Sutherland.

The City of Toronto in 2018 tapped Studio City Rentals to run the former Showline Studios as a rebranded Studio City Toronto facility, and to build three new soundstages to get to 148,000 square feet of production space in all.

With Hollywood in need of cost-effective programming as the streamers begin to tighten their belts, the Canadian film studio sector has seen increasing consolidation as the major studios and streamers chase premium studio space and generous currency and tax credit savings north of the border.

A studio construction boom in Toronto and Vancouver has coincided with TPG Real Estate Partners paying around $1.1 billion for Cinespace Studios, which includes studio campuses in Toronto and Chicago. And MBS Group, a Hackman Capital Partners company — which has placed big bets on studio space in Los Angeles and elsewhere internationally amid the streaming boom — in Toronto is developing Basin Media Campus, a $250 million purpose-built film studio on Toronto’s waterfront, and the $200 million Downsview Studios development.

That construction will offer an initial eight soundstages, followed by additional studio space, at the Downsview air base as part a wider 370-acre redevelopment project in the city’s north end. Studio City has six sound stages and work areas, with its newest stages opened in May 2021. That includes the Jumbo stage, comprising 36,000 square feet with a 55 foot height clearance built to host blockbuster film sets.

The Studio City complex is already home to William F. White’s LED volume stager for virtual production. Studio City  Rentals offers rigging and scaffolding rentals in Toronto, Vancouver and Los Angeles, and was also acquired by Sunbelt Rentals as part of the deal. 

The valuation on the Studio City Toronto facility sale is expected to impact a possible separate transaction as Pinewood Toronto Studios majority owner Bell Media looks to sell its stake. The City of Toronto retains a minority stake in Pinewood Toronto Studios and could offload that holding should a wider and overall acquisition deal emerge for the marquee studio where the Star Trek: Discovery series Guillermo del Toro shoot.

Chris Nethercoat, CEO of Studio City Toronto and Studio City Rentals, and Mike Kirilenko, president of Studio City Toronto and Studio City Rentals, the equipment rentals company the duo launched in 1999, will remain in their current roles and report to William F. White.

“This is the opportunity we have been waiting for – Studio City Toronto and Studio City Rentals are perfectly positioned for rapid growth and with the support of William F. White and Sunbelt Rentals. We can continue to bring innovative solutions to a market that will continue to demand only the best,” Kirilenko added in his own statement.