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Local pic sets P&A record

'Foolproof' to bow on 225 screens on October 3

TORONTO — Ryan Reynolds is keeping company with Tom Cruise, Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery on Canadian theater screens these days as the largest ever P&A campaign for a Canadian film north of the border gets rolling.

The 225-screen release of “Foolproof” on Oct. 3 is set to be the biggest ever for an English-lingo Canadian film, and the marketing campaign, which has been estimated at C$2 million ($1.4 million), is also the most generous. (A tight-lipped Odeon Films will say only that it’s more than $1 million.)

It includes fast food, retail, sound track, national media, making-of specials, a flurry of cross promotion with Chum Television and a trailer tacked onto the front of “The Matrix Reloaded” provided gratis by Viacom-owned Famous Players in its own efforts to boost the domestic industry.

While the P&A for even the largest of Canadian films would barely register on an American studio producer’s spreadsheet, campaigns north of the border have over the last couple of years been growing as producers and government bodies concentrate on the connection between mass market appeal, P&A and box office success.

“There’s certainly an upward curve,” says Richard Paradis, president of the Canadian Assn. of Film Distributors and Exporters. He sees the increase as the result of Telefilm Canada’s 2000 policy which ties government funding to box office success. To qualify for funding of more than $722,000, producers now have to demonstrate a plan to take in more than that at the B.O., and part of that is a sizeable P&A plan.

“We have been telling the government and Telefilm for some time that we have to turn around the production community to make films that Canadians want to see,” says Paradis.

It may not sound like rocket science, but English-language Canada’s top filmmakers, such as Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, have traditionally favored darker, more challenging fare, more suited to the specialty market.

While Egoyan’s own pics can be esoteric, his Ego Film Arts is a co-producer on “Foolproof,” a crime caper in which a group of wise guys who like to design theoretical bank heists are forced to pull one off in real life.

Canadians are starting to focus their attention on larger, audience friendly films such as “Foolproof.”

Odeon spent more than $722,000 in P & A and garnered B.O. of $3.1 million on “Men With Brooms,” for “Bollywood Hollywood,” Mongrel Media spent $614,000. Equinox Films is set to spend north of $1.1 million for its August release “Mambo Italiano.”

“We’re starting to see the government put emphasis on commercially interesting productions, and we’re just now starting to see some results,” says Paradis. “We want to have a mix of movies that are going to appeal to consumers when they decide what to see on the weekend, and we’re fairly optimistic that we’re starting to see the English Canadian market turnover on that.”

The goal, which has been condemned by some as wildly ambitious, is for Canadian films to take 5% of the Canadian B.O. by 2005. By the end of 2002, the domestic B.O. share had grown from 1.4% to 2.2%.

French Canadian films have fared considerably better, with domestic films such as the “Les Boys” franchise helping that market to pull down 9% of B.O. in Canada’s French-speaking regions. In order to attain the Telefilm goal — an average of 5% between them — the French market will have to grow to 12% and the English market to 4%.

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