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Canuck prod’n rises

H'wood shoots spur revs in B.C., Montreal

British Columbia’s film and television revenues jumped 10% last year to C$1.18 billion ($767 million), the ninth consecutive boffo year, while in Montreal revs hit a record $549 million, up 14%.

Both were powered by Hollywood shooting. In B.C., foreign production accounted for 65%, about $495 million, up from $432 million a year earlier.

Ontario, which includes commercials in its statistics, is claiming total production revenues of $859 million for 2000.

Spending on Canadian productions rose just 3.7% last year to $273 million from $263 million in 1999. Of the 192 productions, down slightly from 198 the previous year, 84 were foreign productions, including 19 features, 37 telepics, miniseries and pilots, and 15 TV series.

“We’re still No. 1 in Canada and No. 3 in North America after Los Angeles and New York,” said Gerard Janssen, B.C.’s minister responsible for film.

B.C. has become a role model for other production centers competing with Hollywood, according to Mark DesRochers, the B.C. film commish.

He attributed the industry growth to “good communications between government, labor and management.”

DesRochers dismissed as “badgering” the recent criticism from some Hollywood directors such as Robert Altman about the quality of the work of busy Canadian crews.

Impact of strikes

Janssen is painfully aware of the spillover effect strikes in Hollywood would have on production here.

“We need to make sure the Canadian industry will be sustained,” Janssen said, implying that his government’s budget would address the issue. Since 1998 B.C. has provided controversial provincial tax-credit programs that have enraged the production industry in Hollywood.

“Foreign-produced films remain important, but encouraging the growth of B.C.’s domestic industry is our priority,” Janssen said.

Producing content

“B.C. is moving from relying upon providing services to American productions to producing content for North American and international markets.”

Meanwhile, in Montreal, 12 U.S. productions spent $223 million, an increase of 58% from the $141 million spent a year earlier.

Canada’s main French city hosted a number of pricey studio pics, notably Eddie Murphy man-on-the-moon comedy “Pluto Nash”; “The Score,” with Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton; helmer John McTiernan’s remake of “Rollerball”; car-racing thriller “Driven,” with Sylvester Stallone; and “Heist,” featuring Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito.

Overall, 44 features, miniseries and telepics were lensed in Montreal last year. The city’s film commission estimates that the shooting generated economic activity of $1.2 billion. The film commission issued 4,550 shooting permits over the course of the year.

Problems to be faced

Montreal film commissioner Andre Lafond said his department is satisfied with the growth in 2000 but noted that there are some problems facing the city early in 2001. Montreal has already lost three major foreign pics that were set to shoot here. Submarine thriller “K-19: The Widowmaker,” which stars Harrison Ford, has gone to Toronto after producers couldn’t find studio space in Montreal.

“Stuart Little II,” which was to be shot partly in Montreal, is now filming only in New York and Los Angeles; and “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” has been postponed until the fall at the earliest.

But there are several high-profile projects in Montreal. Lensing kicked off two weeks ago on Paramount Pictures’ “The Sum of All Fears,” directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. Par will also be shooting “Abandoned,” directed by “Traffic” scribe Stephen Gaghan and starring Katie Homes. Also on the sked is helmer Renny Harlin’s “The Sound of Thunder.”

Montreal’s industry is worried about the impact of potential writers and actors strikes.

“Whether we have a strike or not, we won’t have any American shooting in July, August and September,” Lafond said. “So it will be a very strange year.”

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