Justin L. Levine proposes to add a story or two above the old television station at 119 East St.
Later this week, the landmark property in downtown Sault will be turned over to a Hollywood/Toronto film producer with gargantuan plans for the 118-year-old CTV building.
Justin L. Levine, who has produced or currently has 17 movies in development, will take over the former television station at 119 East St. on Friday, August 5, SooToday has learned.
Party-loving and fun-loving Levine wants to add up to two stories above the existing building, as well as a rooftop patio with a terrace (see gallery of 15 images above).
CTV/Bell Media will continue to lease the transmission tower.
Levine’s plan, as outlined in his presentation, is to create “a comprehensive studio filled with resources specifically designed for the film and television industry: film studio, crew, trailers, vehicles, set decorations and prop houses, wardrobe supplies, etc.”
He’s undertaking the ambitious project with the help of a couple of Sault movie entrepreneurs and a former star of the popular ABC show. Full house sitcom.
Cafeteria open to the public.
“The plan is simple,” says Levine.
“Office space, studio space, production companies and individual film professionals working together under one roof to create, collaborate and grow.”
All of that, plus a cafeteria open to anyone who wants to come in, and who knows, maybe get spotted by movie industry types?
“Everything is signed. Everything is ready to close,” Levine tells SooToday, referring to this Friday’s closing date.
Levine describes his venture into Sault as a kind of WeWork for the entertainment industry, making an interesting reference to the controversial global co-working giant depicted in this year’s Apple TV+ drama series WeCrashed, starring Anne Hathaway and Jared Leto.
“Kind of like WeWork,” he says, “but just a very small version of that, in the same business.”
Old Bell Canada House
“The East Street property is a unique building with enormous potential,” says James Caicco, the Century 21 broker who acted for Levine and his Stardust Pictures Inc. in the purchase of the historic building, which originally housed the Sault’s Bell offices. Telephone before CJIC-TV began operations there in November 1955.
“I think he found the right buyer in Justin,” says Caicco.
“Justin’s intended use of the building is very complementary to the emerging film industry in our city.”
“Justin is very well connected to the movie business, but he also has a great real estate portfolio. His real estate background will only help him when looking to use the property,” says Caicco.
Bought without being seen
The asking price for the East Street location hasn’t been disclosed, but Levine says he bought the place sight unseen and paid “substantially less” than the asking price of $450,000.
“It’s kind of funny to hear that I’m buying this in Sault and I haven’t been there. That’s the best part of the whole story, probably,” he says. “Toronto movie promoter who’s never been here buys landmark building”.
That unlikely vision unfolded after Levine worked on a 2021 Christmas movie, a christmas letterwith Trish Rainone and Rebeka Herron of Sault-based 180 Sisterhood Productions.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to have a studio,” he explains.
“The opportunity presented itself. You know what? Why not? Especially since we filmed a christmas letter up there last year with the [Sisterhood] Girls.”
“I know how they handled it and how things went and how things can go better in the future.”
Levine, Rainone and Herron now have three films in pre-production, with 180 Sisterhood expected to play a major role in running Sault’s newest studio facility.
full house star
Another major player in the East Street operation, Levine says, will be David Lipper, an actor, producer and director best known for playing the role of Viper on the popular ABC sitcom. Full house (1987-1995).
Viper ended up making out with DJ Tanner during the last season when DJ broke up with her boyfriend Steve.
Lipper reprized her role as Viper in most complete housewhich ran between 2016 and 2020.
He has had a busy film and television career, including numerous appearances in Levine projects.
Lipper won’t be moving to Sault, but Levine says he will be heavily involved at 119 East St.
Levine himself has also been busy.
The headquarters of his Stardust Pictures Inc. is based, according to federal corporate registration records, in a mailbox at a UPS store on Pleasant Boulevard in Toronto.
the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) shows that the 16-year-old firm has produced an average of one film a year, including some stand-up comedians starring Harland Williams, Pauly Shore and Jamie Kennedy; Y wolf mountaina horror movie with Danny Trejo, currently in post-production.
Levine discussed his early years in business in Toronto on a 2010 episode of Bravo’s reality television show. The millionaire matchmaker.
At the time that program was put together, Levine was a newcomer to Hollywood, a 40-year-old Canadian who dreamed of advancing his career in the movie business.
The popular show was built around Patti Stanger, owner of the Beverly Hills Millionaires Club, who tried to find compatible dates for the Canadian newcomer.
Trust fund baby?
The Bravo show painted Levine as a “trust fund baby” with a net worth at the time between $9 million and $12 million.
“How did you get your wealth?” Stanger asked him.
Levine replied, “To tell the truth, at the age of 25, my birthday present, my father gave me a set of buildings. He said, ‘This is a start for your life and see you later.’
“Do you think you have delayed adolescence?” Stanger asked.
“No,” Levine said. “But everyone who’s known me for 20 years is like, ‘What’s Justin like now?’ The same.”
“I’m 30 plus 10 and I’m still acting like 20.”
“My friends would describe me as a little crazy and a lot of fun.”
“I haven’t grown up. I really don’t want to.”
‘My goal is to be a Charlie Chaplin’
Levine told Stanger that his family has a background in real estate and that he does real estate deals to finance his film projects.
“I’m a film producer and a real estate businessman.”
“My goal is like the old studio system. To be a Charlie Chaplin.”
“I’m still that kid inside.”
Asked by SooToday what he’s learned in the 12 years since he’s been on the reality TV show, Levin replied that it was a “fake” show, “as everyone knows.”
“It was a challenge and a joke in my past…at the time, I was just coming to Los Angeles.” he tells SooToday.
“It has less than zero relation to anything that has to do with the company, the studio or me.”
Levine is registering a new corporate entity for the Sault production hub, to be known as Stardust Pictures Studios.
“A new facility that everyone can use, everyone can go and take advantage of the tax credits,” he says.
A major selling point will be the studio’s proximity to the US border, offering maximum convenience to American movie stars.
“I think it will be the closest studio to the United States. I don’t think Windsor will have one. Even if they did, no closer.”
“My marketing campaign is simply telling American stars that they can fly within the United States… Walk across the border or ride a horse. Make it fun,” he laughs.
“Fly them on a private plane, across the United States, which would be cheaper. Market it that way, so the studio is more accessible to Americans than any other.”
‘About a million dollar expense’
If the price paid for the former television station is a mystery, so is the cost of the renovations shown in its architectural renderings and the number of jobs it intends to create in exchange for government fiscal support.
“Who knows how much an editing suite will cost? $300,000 just for an editing suite? I don’t know,” he tells SooToday.
“For now, I’ll hit a facade and make it glow. I’ll put lights in place and make it glow.”
“But eventually… it’s going to be a serious building.”
“By the time it’s done, you’re talking about a seven-figure expense to get that render up and running. It’s a million dollar expense, at least, to get this render up and running.”
“Pretty much the math, if you want to print a number, you can say about a million dollar expense. I’m not going to say what that includes or excludes, I’ll just say that’s what that number is.”
“To create what I’m going to do, normally that would cost a lot more money in Toronto.”
Helping the town grow
But Levine wants to make us proud.
“I just want to make this an impressive building in the center of the city. Almost a flagship.”
“I want to be part of the community and help the community grow, help the town grow.”
Hints of Levine’s old school, studio system, and Chaplinesque aspirations can be found in the description of a proposed film he co-wrote titled rob hollywood:
“In an attempt to seek validation, the third richest man in the world decides to produce the most expensive epic film in history with a budget of one billion dollars starring the largest cast ever assembled.”
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