Quebec film market share climbs

Ticket sales in province totaled $170 mil last year

Ticket sales for homegrown Quebecois films surged 30% in 2005, hitting a record high in French Canada. Overall grosses for Quebec film for 2005 hit C$35.8 million ($31 million), up from $24 million a year earlier.

That gave Quebec film a market share of 18.2%, a significant increase from its 13.6% share in 2004.

Ticket sales in Quebec totaled $170 million last year, down 2.4% from 2004. Box office was down 5.2% for all of North America, the worst drop in 14 years.

The dip was a lot less serious here — and that was entirely due to the boffo performance of homegrown French-language flicks. The ongoing Quebec film boom is coming at the expense of Hollywood cinema in French Canada. B.O. for American films here dropped 7.1% to $118 million.

The drop in support for Hollywood films does not appear to be a passing phenomenon: American films have been steadily losing ground here for eight years.

This is the first year U.S. films have dropped below 70% of all ticket sales, with Hollywood pics nabbing 69.2% of sales last year. That’s down 14% from eight years ago, when Hollywood movies had a market share in the province of 83.4%.

Not coincidentally, Quebec film’s market share on its home turf increased 14% in the same period, going from 3.9% of ticket sales in 1997 to 18.2% of the sales action last year.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Patrick Roy, senior VP of Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm, distributor of several of the past year’s top Quebecois hits, including “Aurore,” “Horloge Biologique” and “The Rocket.” “We were all expecting a great year, but this is beyond everyone’s expectations. I think it’s first and foremost about the quality of the films.”

The No. 1 Quebec film in the past 12 months was writer-director Jean-Marc Vallee’s period drama “C.R.A.Z.Y.” The story of a guy coming of age in Montreal in the ’60s and ’70s sold $5.1 million worth of tickets. That landed it No. 3 on the overall Quebec top 10, just behind sales champ “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.”

“There’s a real connection between Quebec films and the moviegoing public,” said Simon Beaudry, president of Cineac, the Montreal-based firm that compiles the B.O. stats. “What Quebec filmmakers are producing is exactly what the public wants.

“The batting average for Quebec filmmakers is incredibly high. The quality of the productions has increased and the marketing is now at exactly the same level as the marketing for the Hollywood films here.”

Beaudry noted Quebec filmmakers now are making a wide variety of styles of films — from comedies like “Horloge Biologique” to family dramas like “C.R.A.Z.Y.” to historical biopics like “The Rocket” — and they’re all clicking with the public.

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