The State of the TV and Film Industry in Canada

The CFTPA and Canadian Heritage have released their annual report [PDF] on the state of the industry.  The report contains detailed analysis of film and tv production in Canada without (refreshingly) a single complaint about copyright.  Interestingly, rather than discussing camcording, the report identifies a different problem with the Canadian movie theatre business:

"Canadian films continue to face formidable competition from Hollywood productions.  There is limited shelf space for films on theatrical screens; and that available space, as well as trailers, is typically allocated to Hollywood films.  In fact, Hollywood films have access to 10 to 20 times as many screens as most Canadian films."

Sounds like the Canadian industry should ask the Hollywood studios if they could turn their threat to delay the Canadian release of their movies into a promise.


  1. Michael, Michael, Michael,

    You can’t put Canada’s interests before the interest of the *IAA’s it’s just un-american to do that….oh wait a minute…

  2. A Simple Solution
    The solution to this problem really isn’t that difficult to see, simply because its been used in a number of other entertainment mediums: content regulations. Canadian radio and TV stations already have to play a minimum amount of Canadian content, why shouldn’t movie theaters be subject to a similar type of regulation? The reason that the content laws were created in the first place for radio and TV was an over-abundance of foreign influence. This way, people won’t be so outraged by an American movie delay, and at the same time they’ll have greater options when heading out to the theater.

  3. Yep
    Yah, the reason why Hollywood is on 10 to 20 times as many screens is because if a Canadian theatre, or any theatre anywhere for that matter, decides they don\’t want to play a low-caliber Hollywood movie (and instead play something they think will make more money, i.e. some Canadian flick), Hollywood says that\’s fine but don\’t expect us to sell you the rights to the blockbuster hits either.

    Regulation would likely work since it evens the playing field for all theatres.

  4. Dwight Williams says:

    Taking the Sting Out of the Threat…
    …whenever proposed by anyone on Parliament Hill in a serious way has been fought by the likes of the MPAA’s ex-boss Mr. Valenti before and will be again.

    What I also know is this: I had fun watching Men With Brooms and Bon Cop, Bad Cop at the theatres. I told the people working at the ticket booth this. I’m still saying it.

  5. The Canadian movie industry just ought to concentrate on making quality movies. When quality does exist, I very much *DO* support Canadian films at the theatre. I have bought tickets for and really enjoyed things like Atanarjuat, The Snow Walker and Trailer Park Boys. Unfortunately, the majority of Canadian movies are the unwatchable dreck that ends up filling space on The Movie Network. Films lke those, with ambitions sunk so low to begin with, will *NOT* be seen by any ticket-buying audiences. Canada should aim high and shoot for the top rather than making a film they know only a handful will see on Pay TV.

  6. Kimberly Smith says:

    Director of Creative Action
    The business of English Canadian Dramatic Motion Pictures is in a ruinous state because of a fundamental disconnect with English Canadian Audiences. We are at the point where Telefilm congratulates itself for achieving 5% domestic market share! CRTC regulations kow tow to mutinational cable companies to the point where small businesses are at an unfair disadvantage in their home communities. Public Access Community Television is not as accessible as it pretends. There’s no mention of drama in public access community television programming regulations. Ordinary people pay $40.00 a month or more to watch full motion multinational commercials on all the specialty channels yet never see full motion ads from local businesses on their community channel. The big box stores move in and mom and pop go broke. Then we wonder why 95% of English Canadians don’t watch domestic drama??!! We’re dying at the grass roots, folks and our film industry is living in a bubble.

    This situation has arisen from a general lack of awareness of the true nature and purpose of dramatic art. Business comes before people. Stories and Productions are invested in for their speculated commercial value first rather than for their social and artistic value. Our whole industry is constructed from a maladapted hybrid of Hollywood industrial standards and misguided, toothless Canadian socialist policies. Meaningful creative power is neutralized in a money losing quest for critical acclaim and world wide theatrical distribution. Its a giant monkey trap and we’re being had big time.

    I suggest a new business model for renewing English Canadian Drama from the grass roots up. Read about it in my blog “The Natural Observer”. I invite anyone to discuss my suggestions.
    [ link ]

  7. Hallow Threat To Delay
    The threat to delay releases in Canada is hallow. Most movies are dependent on good marketing. When they advertise a movie on TV, on US channels (on satellite or otherwise), they are reaching Canadian and US viewers. If they delayed the release of a film for more than a short period of time then the Canadian market would forget about it. To ensure success in Canada this means they would have to advertise for the movie again. But to achieve the expected box office results they would have to advertise for the movie on US channels. However, there is a limit to the number of ads which can be aired. This would mean either ads for other movies would have to be dropped; presumably reducing the success of the other movies, or the movie industry would have to buy more air time; which would drive up the price-per-ad. Either way, they would stand to loose a considerable amount of money. Considering this, I don’t think their threat can be taken seriously.

  8. Julien McArdle says:

    I don’t know if it’s an issue of redeveloping the business model from scratch, so much as introducing Canada into the equation. Redeveloping an entire complex, and succesful, industry from scratch is just silly in my opinion.

    Theaters don’t want Canadian movies because they aren’t money makers. Rental shops are better, but not by much. So what does it take for a movie to be a money maker? Money. But if you can’t get a return on the product, who will want to invest? Sure you can get Telefilm and provincial grants or whatnot, but those can’t ever compete with a Hollywood budget.

    I mean the situation in English Canada is absolutely pathetic. Even our most successful films (which oft hark from the much healthier Quebec film industry) don’t make our own theaters. If our most successful films don’t hit the English-Canadian screens, what are the odds that the lesser films will?

    The industry in Quebec is much, much healthier. You have series like “Les Boys” and “Elvis Gratton”, films like “CRAZY” making the theater circuit. In English Canada though, you’ll be hard pressed to find even one Canadian film in theaters.

    I think that South Korea and Quebec are both models the government should look up to, if they’re serious about wanting Canadian films to prosper. Mainly, have a *requirement* that all theaters have a minimum % of Canadian films on their screens. So if a cineplex has 10 screens, perhaps have 1 dedicated to a Canadian film. Right there you’ll infuse money into the system, and give more exposure to Canadian films. The more money is in the system, the bigger budgets they can have, the more they can compete with American films.

  9. Kimberly Smith says:

    Growing Beyond Naive Arrogance
    Julien McArdle\’s dismissive attitude toward the idea of considering a new business model for English Canadian Dramatic film and television is naive. He is living in a dream world if he thinks the existing business model is successful. For who?

    The fact is 95% of ordinary English Canadians don\’t care if a handful of production houses win prestigious awards. Some might even be outright hostile to the idea that some producers line their pockets with public money for half baked ideas that never make it to the screen.

    I agree with Mr. McArdle that Quebec has a better situation going. But it is not only a better business
    model that makes the Quebec Industry more successful. The Quebec film and television industry is more socially engaged with it\’s audience at the grass roots – something the English Industry waves off as impractical.

    Authentic cultural renewal in English Canada can happen with a simple paradigm shift from a purely market driven
    creation process to one that is more community driven. We can have a grass roots cinema creation process that puts more professionals to work and involves ordinary people in their own local stories. The paradox is that this community driven approach will ultimately prosper more people and make more money than the current industry can dream of. It could happen with as little as ninety million dollars but it has to be done equitably across Canada and it must reach rural communities. Just imagine 180 communities each with professional artists in residence working with local people to craft their own digital features. There are a lot of underemployed people in the film industry who would give their eye teeth for a chance to earn salaries making these kinds of projects come to life. Instead of clawing for scraps from runaway Hollywood productions, our craftspeople would have the honour of creating meaningful, relevant, 100% distinctly Canadian movies. Even better – let each of these indigenous productions be cooperatively owned.

    The department of Heritage and Culture currently invests 100 million in the CTF. Most serious professionals know the results and we also know Quebecor and Shaw just attempted a rebellion. So I suggest Mr. McArdle and his ilk eat a little humble pie and learn what its like to survive life as an average, ordinary tax paying English Canadian. There is a whole world of creative possibility outside the current industrial box.

  10. Julien McArdle says:

    Well, we evidently have a difference in ideology. Please correct me if I misconstrue your argument.

    So you’re saying that it would be best for the government to essentially give away millions to support artistic communities across Canada. The purpose of these would be for the artists to better suit their content to the community, which would generate interest on the basis of it’s identity. And you’d picture artists making salaries off of this.

    And you brush /me/ off as naive?

    First of all, no film making crew, no matter how small, could make salaries of substance off of such localized content. Especially in rural communities. Even the smallest of film productions are not cheap by any means, and the cost of production grows by leaps and bound as the additional crews are added. Not only that, but you’re talking about something which is working on making a product for months on end – without a source of return off of that product. It’s just not feasible. Unless you’re proposing that /all/ the salaries be funded by the government?

    Let’s not forget too that people are sheeple for the most part, and many would likely not bite into such local productions given the chance. They’d content themselves with the status quo, what the movie theaters have.

    We cannot expect to change the ideologies of a nation, and somehow expect them appreciate and invest substantially in local productions. It just won’t happen.

    You don’t change the entire system, as you propose. That is simply unrealistic. Can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare that would cause? Rather, you look at what the system is – and you see how you can use it to your advantage. In this case, by having theaters dedicate perhaps one of their ten plus screens to purely Canadian content. Right then and there, you’re not forcing Canadians to change. Right then and there, you start making money for Canadian film makers and artists.

    Plus, you know it works. It worked in South Korea, it can work here.

  11. Julien McArdle says:

    Small ammendum: I am aware that the government already gives away millions, but it’s to more centralized efforts. Overdiversifying their portfolio would not create projects with the revenue streams needed to generate stable salaries, for the reasons outlined above.

    I do believe, however, that it is again less naive to believe in the feasibility of changing a small aspect of an existing system, over the complete breakdown and reconstruction of that system.