Multimedia Lures Canadian Outfits

Many of the top production companies in Eastern Canada have dipped their toes into the much-hyped multimedia biz during the past couple of years. Several have set up separate multimedia divisions. Most are concentrating on the rapidly expanding CD-ROM market, though there are also projects touching on everything from the Internet to interactive television and games.

Malofilm Communications kickstarted its multimedia activity this past spring when it inked several distribution output deals for Canadian rights to CD-ROM product, signing agreements with Trimark Interactive, Technology Dynamics Corp. and the General Media Corp. In May, Malofilm intensified its multimedia focus with the purchase of Megatoon Entertainment Group, a small Quebec City company that specializes in the creation of interactive products.

Last month, Malofilm hooked up with Multi Media Interactif and the Montreal Canadiens hockey team to release a CD-ROM history of the legendary puck squad; the history has been doing brisk retail business in Quebec. On Dec. 4, Malofilm also purchased Desclez Prods, a Montreal producer of children’s programming that is active on the CD-ROM market.

“I think we’ll see more multimedia developers teaming up with partners like us, who are strong in distribution,” Malofilm VP Stephen Takacsy says.

“This is something we believe has a lot of potential. We’re very committed. As the installed base of CD-ROMs in the home increases, you’ll see demand pick up. The idea is to cross-market in as many platforms as possible.”

Desclez Prods, has released two CD-ROMs based on its popular “Iris, the Happy Professor” children’s series, and the company is developing a CD-ROM for its new “Little Star” series.

“We specialize in preschool product, and I think one of the strengths of CD-ROM is in the preschool market,” Desclez VP Norma Denys says. “For us, it’s an extremely good market.”

Astral Communications also recently created a multimedia division, and the venture was boosted this summer when the company acquired a majority interest in Ottawa-based Artech Digital Entertainments, a developer of computer games and multimedia entertainment software.

Steven DeNure, formerly president of Alliance Prods., was recently named head of Alliance’s new multimedia division. The outfit’s first major project is the computer-generated animation series “ReBoot.” The company is planning various ReBoot-related projects, DeNure says.

“I think multimedia really means looking at the widest range of possibilities for a project,” he adds. “I’m interested in looking at projects that can work over a range of different media. It’s a real challenge.”

The next Alliance multimedia project is “Beast Wars,” a 3-D computer-animated series.

Cochran Communications of Halifax, producer of the CBC kids series “Theodore Tugboat,” has carved out a niche for itself as a creator of Internet web sites for TV shows and TV networks.

“We’ve taken a different approach to the web-site business,” Cochran Communications topper Andrew Cochran says. “Our background is in creating content, and it’s our experience (in) creating content for mass audiences that we’re bringing to the Internet. Most web-site companies, it seems, do their work geographically. Our approach is to concentrate on this industry, so we’re dealing with people in the U.S. and in Europe.”

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