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Telefilm talks up local numbers

B.O. share of Canuck pix reached 3.6% in 2003

TORONTO — Telefilm Canada’s struggles to top up indigenous film and television auds in Canada continues to produce mixed results, according to its annual report, released Tuesday.

The Canadian government federal agency reported that the B.O. share of Canadian films reached 3.6% in 2003. In 2001 domestic B.O. was 1.7%, in 2002 it was 2.7%. The most recent figures available from the Canadian Television and Film Production Assn. indicate that in 2002 Canadians spent C$964 million ($676 million) at the B.O. The majority of Canuck box office dollars go to foreign, primarily U.S.-produced, films, and in 2000 Telefilm put in place a new strategy with a goal of boosting the Canuck indigenous film B.O. take to 5% by 2006.

And while Telefilm chair Charles Belanger called the results “impressive in many respects,” the majority of growth comes from the French-language market, “which grew spectacularly to 19%,” while the English-language market is a bust, remaining stalled at about 1%.

There are many successful French-language films to cite as successes, including “La Grande seduction,” “Les Triplettes de Belleville” and “Les Invasions barbares,” (winner of last year’s foreign-language Oscar,) while results in English Canada are grim. The most successful Canadian English-language film to be released in two decades is “Mambo Italiano.” Pic, (which was shot in Quebec,) brought in a paltry $4.3 million at the domestic box office.

The picture on the television end is similarly divided. While French-lingo small-screen production is turning in stellar results, the English-language portion of the $196 million Canadian Television Fund was overhauled last year to make it more user-friendly to producers and to increase auds after it was found to be badly organized and administered.

Telefilm noted: “In the English-language market the challenge continues to be to produce programming that Canadians want to watch.”

English-language dramatic programming, which rarely reaches the top 20, is the worst hit.

Whereas Canada was once a pioneer in the international co-production feature film field, the country’s competitiveness in the co-production arena continues to erode. Canada, which used to be France’s third-largest co-production partner, for example, has slipped to its seventh in the face of out-dated co-production treaties and increased intra-European Union co-production trends. There were 95 official co-productions last year with budgets totalling $567 million. Telefilm and Heritage Canada are examining Canada’s international co-production treaties.

The report noted that regulatory changes in co-producion rules in the U.K. are likely to end the four-year trend of increasing activity between the two countries, “and will probably result in a significant drop beginning next year.”

Telefilm Chair Charles Belanger called for stable funding for the Canadian Television Fund and the rewriting of the Canadian Telefilm Act in order to stabilize Telefilm’s funding and to “allow the corporation to act in a more flexible, rigorous and efficient manner.” Parliament has a bill before it to that effect.

Telefilm is Canada’s government cultural agency, and during the year allocated $192.6 million of its $210 million budget to film, television, music, and new media in Canada. Each dollar invested by Telefilm generates close to triple that to Canada’s economy, the report noted.

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