Toronto Festival: Canada Strikes Co-Production Treaty With Booming New Zealand

Canada and New Zealand today signed a co-production treaty that will allow enhanced film and TV industry cooperation between the two English-speaking territories.

The pact comes at a time when New Zealand’s film productions are having an outstanding year at the local box office and abroad.

The treaty was signed on the margins of the Toronto Film Festival at a ceremony held at the city’s Campbell House Museum. Signatories were Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage, and New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Canada Daniel Mellsop.

Co-production treaties typically enable joint productions to have two passports and be considered as local in both countries. That can open up local distribution systems and enable access to subsidy systems.

Both New Zealand and Canada have used bilateral treaties and well-funded subsidy programs to grow their screen production industries and punch far above their weight if measured on population or GDP terms. New Zealand currently has 17 bilateral treaties. Canada has more than 50 treaties or memorandums of understanding.

The new treaty is a liberalization of the previous bilateral agreement between the two governments first signed in 1987. The previous one was heavily used in its first two decades, but lately has fallen into disuse.

Most notable among the new provisions is greater room for third party producers and financiers. That is likely to be of most benefit to U.S. companies, which can structure three-way joint productions and access federal finance from Canada and New Zealand.

“This is a reboot for contemporary times which we hope will lift co-productions again,” said Dave Gibson, CEO of the New Zealand Film Commission.

New Zealand films this year have claimed an unprecedented 10% of their domestic box office, powered by “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” which became the country’s top grossing film of all time, with NZ$12.2 million ($9 million).

Other films which have crossed the NZ$1 million mark this year include “Born to Dance,” “Mahana,” and “Poi E.” In comparison, local films achieved less than 1% market share last year. Their success has propelled nationwide grosses to a 9% gain this year with a year to date score of NZ$142 million ($104 million), or some 11.3 million admissions.

Most recently, “Chasing Great: Richie McCaw,” which opened in 102 New Zealand cinemas on Sept. 1, broke the box office record for the highest grossing opening weekend for a New Zealand documentary, taking NZ$681,000 ($499,000).

“New Zealand films have certainly played a major role so far this year in assisting the national box office to a very healthy 9% uplift to the end of August 2016, when compared to the same period last year,” said the president of the Motion Picture Distributors’ Assn. of New Zealand, Peter Garner.

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