Backed by Montreal-based media giant Quebecor, Elephant: The Memory of Quebec Cinema, a large scale, non-profit project to restore, digitize and make available Quebec’s cinematic heritage, has seen half a million online buys since its launch in November 2008.
A recuperation, audience access and promotion initiaitive, Elephant has digitized nearly 225 Quebecois pics to date; a further 800 films remain to be eventually restored.
Quebec classics can be viewed 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Quebecois cabler Videotron’s TV platform Illico and via iTunes in Canada, the U.S., France and other French-speaking countries in Europe and African.
Clients pay $1.76 per pic in standard format and $2.65 in HD.
A philanthropic initiative, fully funded by Quebecor, owned by Pierre Karl Peladeau, from which it derives no financial benefit, Elephant suggest an alternative business model for the classic film business that mixes private funding and market-driven economics.
“Distributors retain 10% of revenues from people who buy the film to cover a portion of operating costs, the rest goes to the Quebec rights holders and creators,” producer Marie-Jose Raymond, Elephant co-director, said at the Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market.
Elephant’s work is being internationally recognized. Francis Mankiewicz’s “Les bons debarras” (Good Riddance), a 1979 drama considered a flagship film of both Quebecois and Canadian cinema, which was digitally restored in 2013 by Elephant, screened Oct. 14 in the Splendors of Restoration section at Lyon’s 6th Lumiere Festival.
Supervised by Elephant co-directors Claude Fournier and Raymond, performed by Filmoption International and Technicolor, the digitization and restoration of the original 35 mm color negative of “Good Riddance” was scanned in 4K using Arriscan technology.
In May, the Cannes Festival invited Elephant to screen a restored copy of Jean-Claude Lauzon’s 1992 young Montrealer tale “Léolo” as part of its Cannes Classics section.
Led by the response received at Cannes, the Elephant execs determined to create Elephant ClassicQ, the first Canadian festival devoted to restored and digitized movies from the world’s film heritage.
A further example of Elephant’s expanding horizons, Elephant ClassiQ’s first edition kicked off Oct. 10 as part of Montreal’s 43th Festival du Nouveau Cinema.
“We were very inspired by Cannes Classics’ know-how,” said Marie-Jose Raymond. “Naturally, Elephant will maintain its connection with Cannes Classics and develop relationships with other similar festivals around the world.”
The Elephant website (www.elephant.canoe.ca), the largest existing database and information bank on more than 60 years of Quebecois cinema history, marks another powerful platform for its dissemination and promotion, as does iTunes, whose partnership with Elephant bowed November of last year.
John Hopewell contributed to this article