The Canadian film and TV industry is often referred to as Hollywood North and the industry has become an important sector of Canada’s economy. Most notably the industry impacts the economies of Toronto and Vancouver. However, the TV and film industry is active elsewhere in the country, too.
In this article, we explore the statistics of the film and TV industry in Canada. You can find information on production volumes, employment in the industry, box office revenues, and highest-grossing films made in Canada among other interesting data and details about the Canadian film and TV industry.
Film and TV Industry Statistics for Canadians
- Toronto (38%) and Vancouver (39%) are the most popular filming locations in Canada, followed by Montréal and Alberta.
- In 2019/2020, the film and TV industry contributed over $2 billion to Canada’s GDP.
- The film and TV industry in Canada provides work for over 244,000 people.
- Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall production volume fell by 4.6% in a year.
- During the 2019/20 season, 112 domestic feature films were produced in Canada.
- Almost 70% of film directors in Canada are men.
- Canada hosts 300 film festivals in a year.
- Box office revenue in 2021 was only a third of the pre-pandemic levels.
Why is Canada Called Hollywood North?
The nickname Hollywood North reflects how Canada has historically been seen as an extension of the film and TV industry of Hollywood. Canada has been the chosen location for many popular films, often without the film and TV audiences even realizing their favourite films were shot in Canada.
Canada has produced many world-class actors, such as Anna Paquin (Winnipeg, Manitoba), Ryan Gosling (London, Ontario), Michael J. Fox (Edmonton, Alberta), and Mike Myers (Scarborough, Ontario) just to name a few. The film director James Cameron is also Canadian, having been born and raised in Ontario.
Why is Canada a Popular Location for Hollywood Movies?
There are various reasons why Canada has become so popular within the film and TV industry, which include state-of-the-art facilities, a wide range of outstanding locations, and experienced crews. Canadian film and TV crews can offer producers a range of experience levels from indie productions to big-budget movies.
But even more attractive than locations, crews, and facilities, are the potential savings. Producers can get much more for their money in Canada compared to the US. In addition, there are tax incentives that attract foreign producers to Canada.
The cheaper production costs are especially important to TV movies with smaller budgets. When the production is allocated around $2 million, it would be a struggle to get it made in the United States
The Film and TV Industry in Canada
The film and TV industry in Canada makes a valuable contribution to the country’s economy. In 2019/2020 the film and TV industry contributed $12.2 billion to Canada’s GDP and generated $9.52 billion in production volume. It also provided work for 244,500 people.
However, the impact is wider than just the jobs and income generation within the sector itself. For example, filming in locations in Canada can support local food and hospitality industries through increased demand for their services.
According to the Media Producers Association, the greater value from the screen sector accounted for close to 347,000 jobs, slightly over $23 billion of Canada’s GDP, and nearly $16 billion in labour income.
The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Film and TV Industry
The Canadian film and TV production had reached an all-time high in 2019/20, generating $9.52 billion following four years of strong and steady growth. Because of COVID, the overall production volume fell by 4.6% in 2020/21. The total volume that year was $9.09, which was $436 million lower than the previous year. However, the decrease could have been much bigger considering that film and TV production stopped for several months.
Funding From the Federal Budget
Following the pandemic, the 2021 Federal Budget included funding to support the film and TV industry in Canada to help it offset some of the revenue lost because of the pandemic. Some of the recipients of the additional funding included Telefilm Canada with $105 million, Canadian Media Find with $60 million, and Indigenous Screen Office with $40 million.
Box Office Revenue
The pandemic not only impacted the production revenue, but it also had a huge impact on box office takings as movie theatres closed for months. In 2021, the box office revenue in Canada amounted to $345 million, an increase of 47% compared to 2020. However, the box office takings in 2021 were only about a third of the takings recorded in 2019. This is in line with a survey from mid-2021, in which only 30% of Canadians said they had been to see a film in a movie theatre in the last twelve months.
Annual Production of Domestic Feature Films
There were 112 domestic feature films produced in Canada during the 2019/20 season, which was the same number as in the two previous seasons. However, the volume of domestic film production has been on the decline in Canada.
In the 2011/12 season, the total volume was $357.78 million according to Statista. This was followed by a slow decline with the lowest volume recorded in 2016/17 at just $250.56 million. From there, it started climbing again, reaching $285.72 in 2019/20.
The impact of COVID-19 resulted in another decrease in 2020/21 when the total volume of domestic feature films was $272.64. With restrictions lifted since then, it is possible that the records from 2021/22 when released will show a recovery back to the pre-COVID levels.
The Majority of Canadian Film Directors Are Men
In 2019, only 31.3% of film directors in Canada were women. Whilst this shows progress towards gender equality within the industry, many of the higher-ranking roles in the industry are still occupied by men.
The film and TV industry still has work to do to create a more inclusive and diverse working environment, not just in relation to women, but also in relation to people from visible minorities and Indigenous backgrounds.
Canada Hosts Many International Film Festivals
The film and TV industry provides additional revenue through film festivals. Many Canadian cities host film festivals every year and there are around 300 festivals celebrating films in total. This is a significant percentage (7.5%) of the around 4,000 film festivals that take place worldwide. Some of the most notable film festivals in Canada include the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, and the Montreal Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma.
Film and TV Production in Canada by Province
While Vancouver and Toronto have been the two main hubs of the Canadian film and TV industry, Quebec, in particular Montréal, and Calgary, Alberta are gaining momentum on the scene.
In 2019/2020 Toronto and Vancouver accounted for 68% of the film and TV production in Canada, with 38% and 30% respectively. Ontario has outpaced British Columbia eight times between 2009 and 2019. However, when comparing the share of the provinces, British Columbia has a slightly bigger share of the overall production. in 2020/2021, British Columbia represented 36% and Ontario 35% of the total share.
In 2020/21 British Columbia had a 36% share of the total volume of films and TV produced in Canada. This represented $3.253 billion of total production. It also had the largest share of Foreign Location and Service Production (FLS) at 52%, amounting to $2.719 billion. The province saw an increase of $372 million (15.9%) in FLS production in 2020/21. Virtually all of the growth came from TV series production.
Ontario’s share of the total production volume in 2020/21 was 35% or $3.166 billion. It had 27% of the total FLS volume, which amounted to $1.426 billion. Unlike British Columbia, Ontario saw a decline in FLS production, which was 7.5%. According to Ontario Creates, the number of projects fell largely because of the higher production costs following the new COVID-19 safety measures needed on film and TV sets.
Quebec’s share of the total volume was 23% and 18% of the FLS volume, representing $2.098 billion and $922 million respectively. The pandemic affected not only the filming on live-action sets but also the province’s vibrant visual effects scene saw the number of projects dwindling. The FLS production in the province fell by $220 million representing a 19.3% decrease.
Manitoba, Alberta, and Nova Scotia
These three provinces mainly see FLS production. In 2020/21, Manitoba had a 2% share of the total FLS volume in Canada, which amounted to $84 million. Alberta’s share was 1%. However, the volume of FLS production in the province went from zero to $68 million in a year. The share of Nova Scotia was less than 1% amounting to $46 million.
The Highest-Grossing Films Made in Canada
Many Hollywood films were shot in Canada but only the keenest observers familiar with the locations used would be likely to notice. Here are five of the highest-grossing films that were shot on locations in Canada.
- Large parts of the film Titanic, which crossed $2.1 billion, were shot in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The film, released in 1997, starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The film also featured a soundtrack by the French-Canadian singer Celine Dion.
- Pirates of the Caribbean, grossing $963 million and starring Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom, was shot at Niagara Falls, which has been a popular location for shooting Hollywood films for a long time. Other films shot at Niagara Falls include Superman II starring Christopher Reeves and Niagara starring Marilyn Monroe.
- Catch Me if You Can was shot in Quebec City and grossed $350 million. It starred Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio and was directed by Steven Spielberg. Quebec City was picked because of its French look.
- Superman grossed $300 million and was shot in Calgary. This was the original film from 1978, not the remake. The film Shanghai Noon, which is set in Nevada was also filmed in Calgary as was Cool Runnings, the film based on the true story of a Jamaican bobsled team.
- The 1997 film Good Will Hunting was filmed in Toronto and grossed $225 million. Toronto has been a popular film location with Hollywood directors for a long time because of the cheaper production rates as well as its scenery. The 2002 film Chicago was also filmed in Toronto.
Canada has a vibrant film and TV production industry. Not only are there over a hundred domestic feature films produced in Canada every year, but the country is also a popular location for big-budget Hollywood films, earning the country the nickname of Hollywood North.
Despite COVID, which shut down film and TV production as well as movie theatres, Canadian film, and TV production is going strong, aided by post-pandemic support from the federal government and foreign productions.
Frequently Asked Questions
The exact number varies from year to year. However, in 2020, 409 feature films, TV movies, and series were filmed in Canada.
During the 2019/2020 season, the Canadian film and TV industry provided work for 244,500 people.
Over the years, there have been many big-budget films either completely or partly filmed in Canada. They include two of the original Superman films, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Good Will Hunting. However, probably the biggest film to date that has been shot at least partly in Canada is Titanic.