Sound Stage Building, Buying Boom Accelerates As Hackman Capital To Develop New ‘Basin Media Studios’ In Toronto

Basin Media Studios conceptual rendering Hackman Capital

LA-based Hackman Capital Partners just announced its latest project — working with the City of Toronto to develop a new complex called Basin Media Studios amid a production boom in that city and a global race to expand capacity to accommodate the explosion of TV and film production

Construction is planned to start by 2023 on 8.9 acres of a publicly-owned parcel on the waterfront of the Media City district of Toronto’s Port Lands, a redevelopment zone focused on growing Toronto’s $2 billion screen-based industries. It will offer eight large, state-of-the-art sound stages, production offices and support and workshop space. An estimated $250 million investment will be one of the most significant to Toronto’s film and television production ecosystem in over two decades, the city said. 

The rise of streaming has triggered a sharp uptick in demand for studio space. That was already true pre-pandemic and, now, coming out of Covid with production ramping up, the need is greater than ever and new studio projects are being announced at an unprecedented clip. Real estate developers now see studio complexes as an attractive asset class and the world’s uber-content producer Netflix has led industry players in expanding, buying and bidding on facilities.

Earlier this week, TPG Real Estate Partners announced the acquisition of Cinespace Studios in Toronto and Chicago, a month after it agreed to buy a large stake in Germany’s Studio Babelsberg.

Hackman was in early and and has been by far the most aggressive in buying or building production studios. Last week, in partnership with New York’s Square Mile Capital, it acquired NYC’s iconic Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens, the 1920s site that was the original home of Paramount Pictures. That deal came a year after it acquired Silvercup Studios in Long Island City and the Bronx.

The Hackman/Square Mile portfolio also include Culver Studios in downtown Culver City, home to Amazon Studios; Television City Studios, the CBS broadcasting facility in West Hollywood; the MBS Media Campus in Manhattan Beach, CA,  home to James Cameron’s Lightstorm Studios; the historic Raleigh Studios Hollywood; Sony Pictures Animation Studios, a post-production campus in Culver City; Second Line Stages in Louisiana; the historic Ardmore Studios in Dublin, Ireland; Troy Studios, Ireland’s largest and newest complex; The Wharf Studios Londona new campus opening in December; and Eastbrook Studios London, currently under construction.

Hackman’s next deal may be for the CBS Studio Center in LA. The firm declined to comment but is said to have presented the winning bid for the historic real estate being auctioned off by ViacomCBS.

Back to Toronto – home to Star Trek Discovery, See, Locke & Key, Schitt’s Creek, What We Do in The Shadows, The Queen’s Gambit, Jack Reacher and upcoming feature films Nightmare Alley and Women Talking — the city’s real estate agency CreateTO said it had sought proposals for Basin Media Hub from companies around the globe in a highly competitive market offering process.

“In addition to its strong proposal to deliver a state-of-the-art film, television, and digital media hub  – Hackman Capital Partners and The MBS Group have an extensive track record of successfully built and managed film studio projects internationally, including in Canada, and have committed to fostering local skill development and supporting Canadian content creation, which will benefit the industry and the broader community,” said Steven Trumper, CEO, CreateTO.

MBS is a Hackman affiliate.

The city estimates that the expected economic impact of ongoing film studio operations includes $280 million in economic activity, $119 million in net contribution to GDP, $32 million in tax revenues across all levels of government, and 750 direct jobs created on-site as well as 880 indirect or induced jobs in the broader community.

“It’s a privilege to be selected as the developer and operator of Basin Media Studios,” said Hackman founder and CEO Michael Hackman. “The City of Toronto is an economic hub for the creative economy in Canada and already a film and television production powerhouse. We’re thrilled to get this project under way, helping the city to expand its studio footprint, and supporting all who are interested in working in the screen industry.”

The deal prompted the Toronto’s mayor’s office to note the city’s progress as a hub for production, which it said is on track for a record high this year after hitting $2.2 billion in 2019. By 2025, through expansions and new builds, studio space in the Toronto region will increase by 63% to a projected 5.3 million square feet. (In 2021, Netflix announced its Canadian headquarters in Toronto, joining Amazon Studios in growing its investment there.)

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