CANMORE, ALTA – Just under $325,000 in gross revenue was brought in to Town of Canmore coffers from last year’s filming of the soon-to-be released HBO show The Last of Us.
The finances, which primarily came from fees, gave a glimpse of the potential of what may be an economic driver in coming years, especially in the less than busy shoulder seasons for tourism.
And while there are no immediate plans for future filming, Chris Bartolomie, the Town of Canmore’s supervisor of arts and events, said there has been an interest expressed by other productions.
She said a big reason is largely due to the incentives offered by the province.
“I don’t think it’s as a result of HBO. I think it’s more a result of the tax incentives offered by the Alberta government. It’s just cheaper to work here.”
Last year Premier Jason Kenney announced the province’s Film and Television Tax Credit had been increased from $30 million to $50 million. The incentive offers a 22 or 30 per cent credit on eligible production and labour costs.
Of the $325,000, just under $98,000 was for contracted services that were directly billed to the Town of Canmore, leaving about $225,000 in net revenue for the Town.
Location and parking stall fees were about $162,000, while staff time and administration fees were $58,000. Permitting fees came in a little under $8,000.
According to a staff report, the locations department for the filming spent almost $1 million on location fees to businesses and residents. Hotels and lodging had about $400,000 spent and roughly $375,000 on food and beverage costs.
Bartolomie said people employed with the production received a per diem of $65, with 150 people on site for 30 days and 250 people for five days. All receipts had to be submitted, so it was possible to track the costs.
In the roughly week-long shoot and the extra week of setting and dismantling sets, there were a total of 3,200 room nights booked in Canmore hotels.
The staff report noted 30 locals were employed and 100 locals were signed on as extras. There were also fewer than 20 complaints received from residents.
While a full economic impact isn’t fully realized, the report highlighted that food, fuel, equipment rentals, construction materials and accommodations all generated revenue for local businesses.
The Last of Us, starring the Mandalorian's Pedro Pascal, was filmed in Canmore from Nov. 15-20, 2021. They shot primarily on Main Street, but also at the Engine Bridge, 14th Street and the parking lots near the Miner’s Union Hall. It also filmed in other areas of Alberta such as Edmonton and Okotoks.
Of the 163 businesses that were impacted by the filming, Bartolomie said 40 took part in the survey.
The report highlighted that the main concerns received were the level of communication, with people wanting more notice, better signage and more consistent information.
The timing was also a concern for some businesses, especially with the Christmas shopping season happening.
The level of disruption and how things changed quickly were also noted in the report, while the ability of businesses to negotiate with the production was limited. However, 69 per cent of businesses stated they were revenue neutral and the remaining 31 per cent reported a loss in money.
The report emphasized the need for the Town to have a contract with production companies to outline responsibilities, a fee structure and payment schedule if future shoots take place in the community.
In the coming months, Town staff will review feedback from businesses, complete a review of other municipal film policies, create a contract template and return to council. A procedural document for film permitting will also return to council.
The report also stated HBO had a green plan that set 75 per cent for a waste diversion target to avoid an influx to the landfill. The Town has asked for an 80 per cent rate to ultimately strive for.
While it may have looked more was being thrown out, the production staff took any waste to the lot near Cam Clark Ford Canmore to be separated and recycled or reused.
“For something like this and we didn’t have the processes in place, that’s a pretty good number," said Canmore Mayor Sean Krausert. "There was a lot of positive feedback combined with some negative as well. There’s room for improvement, but there was also a lot of benefits.”