MONTREAL — The Canadian film distribution scene bounced back recently after some tough times.
Montreal-based Alliance Films, the country’s dominant local player, stumbled badly in 2007 but enjoyed a string of hits this year, including “Sex and the City,” “Burn After Reading,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Righteous Kill.”
Toronto-based Maple Pictures is also on the upswing this year. It just inked a long-term output deal with Miramax Films, a company that was one of Alliance’s key suppliers for years. Maple also snared a former Alliance and Miramax exec, naming Jim Sherry co-president.
Entertainment One continues to make major strides toward becoming a mini-studio in Canada, thanks to its acquisition of Seville Pictures, output deals with companies such as Summit Entertainment and Yari Film, and the takeover of distrib Christal Films’ library of Canuck pics. (Montreal-based Christal suffered crippling financial woes and is under court-sanctioned bankruptcy protection.)
The increasingly competitive marketplace in Canada, with Alliance now facing serious rivals, makes for a healthier film scene, assert locals.
“Competition brings out the best in everybody,” says Patrice Theroux, filmed entertainment prexy at Entertainment One. “Canada was a unique situation with one dominant distributor. I think it’s just a rebalancing of the market.”
Adds Maple co-president Laurie Mays: “The pro is that there are growth opportunities. The con is that there are more players chasing the same things, and sometimes that means that the price goes up.”
Alliance president Charles Layton is upbeat about his company’s upcoming roster. “It’s a complete return to form,” he says. “All of our suppliers have contributed important films. Last year, the indie world thought that they could make political movies and movies about Iraq, and the fact is that no one has any interest in going to those movies. This year, people have avoided those obvious pitfalls.”
The impact at the box office of Entertainment One’s newer deals will start soon. Through Summit it has a couple of major titles this fall, including “Twilight.”
The AFM remains a key acquisitions market for Canadian distribs and, given the importance of new-media platforms, these companies always look to buy all rights, never just theatrical.
$600 million (through Oct. 9)
“The Dark Knight” ($42.1 million)
“The Class” (Mongrel Media)
“Four Christmases” (Alliance)
“The Hurt Locker” (Equinoxe)
“Men Who Stare at Goats” (Maple)
“Twilight” (Entertainment One)