Canada

Distribs hedge bets by keeping one foot south of border

RECENT PICKUPS
· Brothers (Seville Pictures)
· Brokeback Mountain (Odeon Films)
· Don’t Come Knockin’ (Mongrel Media)
· Murderball (ThinkFilm)
· Les soeurs fachees (Christal Films)
2004 STATS
Top film: Shrek 2 (DreamWorks, $36 million)
Top indie: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (Odeon, $5 million)
Total B.O.: $744 million
Releases: 566
Screens: 3,024

MONTREAL — Just how tough is film distribution biz in the Great White North? Jeff Sackman, CEO of ThinkFilm, is only too happy to tell you.

“When I look at the Canadian distribution scene, I’m particularly glad we play in the North American distribution scene (also),” he says. Unlike most Canuck distribs, Toronto-based ThinkFilm handles pics in Canada and the U.S., making its real money south of the border.

The Canadian indie distribution sector continues to be handily dominated by Alliance Atlantis, which has output deals with U.S. suppliers including Miramax and New Line.

The rest of the business is shared by a gang including ThinkFilm, Seville Pictures, Mongrel Media and the newly created Maple Pictures (which took over from Lions Gate in Canada).

English-language Canadian titles are still in a box office rut. One of the few bright spots in the past year was Michael Moore-esque anticapitalist doc “The Corporation,” which did great business for Mongrel.

“There’s something uniquely Canadian about it,” says Mongrel prexy Hussain Amarshi. “There’s no point in making second-rate copies of American films.”

French-lingo Canadian cinema continues its solid-gold box office run thanks to crowdpleasing hits such as “Alys Robi: Bittersweet Memories” and “Maman Last Call.”

David Reckziegel, co-president of Seville, says the Canadian TV market is becoming more closed to features thanks to the proliferation of relatively inexpensive reality series.

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