TORONTO -- Mayor John Tory says that the city’s film industry is “slowly getting back on its feet” after being brought to a virtual standstill earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic with the ongoing construction of three new sound stages in the city’s east end providing the latest cause for optimism.

Tory made the comment to reporters on Thursday morning as he visited Studio City on Lake Shore Boulevard East to check in on the construction of three new sound stages, which will provide an additional 70,000 square feet of space for film and television productions once completed in February.

He said that while the city’s film industry mostly “ground to a halt” in the late winter and spring it has been mounting a comeback in recent months with the city issuing 300 film permits since July.

While that number represents a fraction of the number of film permits that the city might expect to approve in more normal circumstances, Tory said that it is proof that things are “slowly but surely coming back to life” for an industry that has become vital to Toronto’s economy.

“I think what you see from all if this is a clear indication of the strength of the sector based on the very fact that you have hundreds of permits issued,” he said. “It is also my understanding that since the pandemic sort of got to its second stage the inquiries about coming here to produce films and television series have been increasing as well. “

Tory said that before the pandemic struck there was a clear need for additional studio space in the city with numerous projects underway to expand existing facilities or build new ones.

Then the pandemic stuck and there was a sudden halting of activity in the sector due to various public health restrictions.

Tory, however, said that “the good news is that when you are dealing with series or with films that are partly done it is always going to be the case that with so much invested they have to be finished.”

For that reason, he said that the industry is slowly returning to normal albeit with new “pandemic-driven restrictions” and challenges related to the ongoing partial closure of the U.S. border.

“I am very hopeful and optimistic that if we can all do our part and wash our hands, wear our face coverings and socially distance from one another that as these sound stages are ready we will be ready and able to accept more of the productions coming back and brand new ones coming to the city,” he said of the expansion underway at Studio City.

“It (the film industry) is a very important sector in our economy but it is also vital to the creative reputation of our city as a place that welcomes innovation, welcomes creative people and is home to the creative industries.”

In addition to the new sound stages at Sound City, which are expected to more than double the capacity of the facility, Tory said that the city has also launched a request for proposals to develop a new film and television production studio on an 8.9 acre parcel of land in the city’s Port Lands district. That facility is expected to provide an additional 500,000 square feet of studio and production space.

Toronto’s film industry has pumped about $2 billion a year into the city’s economy in recent years, though that number will undoubtedly be lower this year.