Woes mounting for fest

New Montreal FilmFest in the red

A report from Canuck film funder Telefilm Canada revealed the inaugural edition of the troubled New Montreal FilmFest ran up a deficit of C$850,000 ($730,000) as a result of poor ticket sales. Revelation comes just days before organizer Equipe Spectra is to announce whether it will continue to run the fest.

Two months ago, Spectra said it would drop out if, by Jan. 15, it had not managed to ink a deal to merge with the much smaller but well-respected Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema. That marriage does not look likely to be consummated anytime soon. Nouveau Cinema executive director Bruno Jobin said the two festivals are not even talking.

If Spectra drops out of the New Montreal FilmFest, the event is unlikely to survive.

Telefilm exec director Wayne Clarkson said his agency will not help the New Montreal FilmFest deal with the deficit if Spectra decides to cut its ties to the event. If Spectra remains committed to the festival, Telefilm would consider making an arrangement to help the fest manage the deficit.

Telefilm and Quebec film agency Sodec put out a call for bids in fall 2004 looking for companies interested in creating a Montreal film festival to replace Serge Losique’s Montreal World Film Festival, which had fallen out of favor with the funding agencies and the Quebec industry. Telefilm and Sodec granted the winning bid to a group comprising Spectra and industry coalition the Regroupement Pour un Festival de Cinema a Montreal.

But the first edition of the New Montreal FilmFest in September was a catastrophe, with lackluster ticket sales, uneven programming and a public war of words between Spectra and festival prexy Alain Simard and his outspoken program director, Moritz de Hadeln.

To complicate matters, Losique’s fest is still in business despite losing almost all its public funding, and this fall’s edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema was easily the most successful of the three Montreal fests.

Officials from Spectra would not comment on the deficit or on the future of the New Montreal FilmFest.

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