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Canadians Looking At The Video Picture

Most Canadian buyers, tighter with money because of the recession, are shopping at AFM mainly for homevideo rights and specialty product.

“Everyone’s in a careful spending mode,” says Andre Link, chairman of Toronto and Montreal-based C/FP distrib, “but if I find something we want, we’re going to go after that product.”

Montreal-headquartered Astral Inc. fields 20 reps at AFM, far Canada’s largest contingent. That includes buyers for its Astral Films theatrical distrib, plus separate paycablers English-track First Choice and Family Channel and French-trackers SuperEcran and Canal Famille.

Astral does business in Los Angeles “12 months a year,” per Stephen Greenberg, senior vice president of Astral Enterprises.

Dual-language action

At AFM and other markets, it’s buying English and French-track rights for “anything we can make money on – artistic to documentaries to B movies to C movies to action.”

Astral includes technical services, labs, post-producing and financing services and all divisions will have reps on hand.

Last year, Astral bought minority interest in France’s Canal Enfant tv service and signed joint finance ventures with Paris-based Hachette, InterTelevision and Canal Plus.

Coprods, being part of AFM’s wheeling and dealing, will also be among Astral’s talks.

For Patrice Theroux, vice president of domestic home video at Montreal and Toronto-based Alliance Releasing, the impetus driving Canadian distribs to AFM boils down to video.

“All of us are principally there buying video,” he says.

Alliance Releasing, the envy of other Quebec-owned-and-operated distribs, has all rights output deals with New Line, Goldwyn, Carolco’s subsid 7 Arts, and also reps Carolco for tv in English and French.

Theroux and other Alliance reps also plan to look at Film Four Intl.’s pic slate for this year and 1992.

Alliance signed an output deal with Film Four at last year’s Montreal World Film Festival.

Recession tightens purse strings

Toronto’s Cinephile specialty distrib expects to spend 30-35% less than at last year’s AFM because of the recession, per chairman Daniel Weinzweig. Because of declining conditions at all smaller English-track distribs, Cinephile, which last year picked up such pics as “Metropolitan” and “To Sleep With Anger,” aims to broaden its buying to more potentially commercial product.

Cinephile, he says, now also wants “identifiably qualitative, review-driven types of movies.” Chiefly because of the North America-wide recession, he notes, audiences “are being selective in the movies they choose and tend to be looking for more escapist fare.”

Marie-Claude Poulin, vice president of acquisitions at Montreal and Toronto-based Malofilm Distribution, prowls for “more output deals with Americans.”

Malofilm has English and French rights to Turner product and French rights to Paramount homevid releases.

Cineplex Odeon Films Canada, which has a successful output deal with Miramax, among other U.S. indies, as usual, seeks more of the same all-media deals.

No other details or spending limits are forthcoming from Cineplex Odeon.

Richard Goudreau, topper of Montreal’s CinemaPlus, regards AFM as “more of a video market for me and my competitors. The majority of product available to Canadians is video rights.

“I’m looking for B product,” he says. “I can still make a few bucks in video with B product.”

Calgary and Toronto-based Nova Entertainment, which holds the Cinecom franchise for English-track Canada, is a relatively new kid on the block.

“Big, commercial fare usually means big, commercial prices and that’s not what we’re in business to do,” says Andrew Austin, Nova’s theatrical general manager.

Nova will shop, but will step aside in event of a bidding war, he says.

“We might come home with nothing,” Austin says. “Just because you go to a market, there’s no guarantee you’re going to come home with a film.”

On the other hand, Orval Fruitman, president of Toronto’s small Brightstar Distribution, doesn’t seem to be as concerned about the money he might spend.

“The amount is immaterial depending on the commerciality of the product,” he says. “I’ll spend whatever it takes to acquire a commercial film.”

Suzan Ayscough In Montreal and Sid Adilman and Karen Murray In Toronto Contributed To This Report.

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