Did you know the very first film screening in North America happened in Montréal? It was on June 27, 1896, at the Palace Theatre on St. Lawrence Boulevard, where an invitation-only crowd gathered to watch grainy scenes from France on technology invented by the Lumière brothers. It was the start of a love affair.
Birth of an industry
Today Montréal isn’t just a hot spot for film aficionados, with dozens of stellar cinemas (many of which can be rented out for events) and close to a dozen annual film festivals to enjoy – it’s also at the heart of the Canadian film and television making industry. There are more than 50 production studios and 40 more visual effects companies in the city, making it one of the largest post-production hubs in the world. Montréal is also where Canada’s National Film Board is headquartered, and where over 600 national and international films are shot every year.
Directors like Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis have all chosen to shoot here. In recent years, local directors like Xavier Dolan, Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée have garnered accolades on the international scene. Among the long list of movies filmed in Montréal, you’ll find most of the X-Men franchise, the latest in the Transformers franchise, the Netflix film Pieces of a Woman starring Shia Laboeuf and Halle Berry’s Moonfall.
Cutting edge of technology
Always at the forefront of creative expression, Montréal is the logical place for the cutting-edge of cinematic progress – Montréal is where IMAX technology was invented, after all, back in 1967. Technological advancements remain at the centre of the healthy local post-production industry, special effects, visual effects and animation sectors to this day, and ironically still involve large, immersive screens.
MELS is an all-in-one production house for film, television, advertising and audiovisual projects, complete with 20 studios located near downtown Montréal, as well as post-production and visual effects services in house. The studios at MELS boast state-of-the-art technical facilities, including a virtual studio featuring an immense semi-circular, immersive digital background. At the intersection of the virtual and digital worlds, this facility has been a game-changer in the Canadian industry: it’s the second biggest of its kind in the country (and the third in the world).
In 2022, MovieMaker ranked Montréal the fourth best city worldwide to live and work in the film industry. “The cornucopia of employment opportunities in the expanding film and television production market is complemented by the city’s colourful neighbourhoods, delicious eats, culturally diverse residents, and an abundance of festival events,” states the report.
Last year Montréal’s final figures for film and TV production sat somewhere between $350 and $400 million, and between $600 to $700 million for VFX and animation. The lure for live-action blockbuster productions from studios and streaming giants is only increasing as time and technological developments advance – like MELS’ incredible digital studio, as mentioned.
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