Many of Quebec’s top film players say it’s time for Canada’s two major exhibitors, Cineplex Odeon and Famous Players, to start doing more to help out local pix.

At a panel organized by the Quebec Cinema Institute Tuesday, Quebec producers and distributors argued that French-Canadian pix are being squeezed off the province’s screens as a result of the increased domination by U.S. majors. Max Films boss Roger Frappier — who has produced several top-grossing Canadian movies, including “Jesus of Montreal” and “The Decline of the American Empire”– says Cineplex and Famous should free up more screens for the top Quebec films.

“When they’re launched properly, Quebec films make as much and, in some cases , more money in Quebec than American films that have huge marketing campaigns,” said Frappier. “I think our films should have access to the best screens at the best possible times of the year. We want to have the same access to screens as everyone else.”

Shortage disputed

But Famous Players Quebec head John Xinos disputes the notion that there is a shortage of screens for local product.

“We have screens that we could change the vocation to show European, French, Quebec, or Canadian films,” said Xinos. “And I’d be willing to do that.”

Quebec Cinema Institute head Bernard Boucher suggested that there are perhaps too many English-language theaters in Montreal. But Xinos isn’t sure that there’s enough French-Canadian and French-European pix to fill extra screens.

“The problem is launching in English in Montreal,” said Victor Loewy, head of Alliance Releasing, the country’s leading distrib. “We’ve never had a problem in French.”

Worsening situation

Most of the panelists strongly disagreed with Loewy and many said the situation for French-lingo pix has worsened considerably since the Quebec government forced the U.S. majors to release dubbed French copies within 45 days of the original release.

“Quebec was a place forgotten by the Americans up until about four years ago, ” said Malofilm Communications head Rene Malo. “Then they discovered that they could make twice as much money as before. The Americans aren’t the bad guys in all this. We’re the ones that opened the door. The biggest consequence is that people go to see European and Canadian films less often. We’re becoming like the rest of North America.”

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