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Canada's Box Office Bummer

A Problem Money Can't Solve


"They've spent over a couple billion dollars trying to get an industry going and we still have the same statistics we had back in 1970."



Canada's Box Office Bummer

By Nicholas Stoneman

Film and television has always been a tough industry to earn a living in. And for many in Ontario, it has gotten harder over the past few years.  

Provincial film production numbers for 2004 show productions in Ontario have fallen once again.

According to Marcelle Lean, Chair of Ontario Media Development Corporation, "the industry has not fully recovered from a difficult 2003 though we hope the worst is finally behind us."

The 'worst' is SARS and a rising Canadian dollar.

Although this year's numbers are down, they could be worse.

The decline we're experiencing is mainly related to the number of American productions coming north.  

In 2004, about $1-billion was generated by the industry in Ontario and, according to the OMDC, about half was from foreign productions.

This illustrates Canada is extremely dependent on the U.S.

Think about this: according to the BBC, the new Harry Potter movie is going to be the most expensive film ever made. Its reported budget will be about $250-million (Canadian) - 25 per cent of Ontario's film economy in one production.

A Hollywood studio's decision to shoot a blockbuster in Ontario can make the difference between a good and bad year.

Maybe the real question is how the film industry got into this predicament.

Historically speaking, Canada hasn't always had a film industry to worry about.

"Canadian-based productions had to go to the U.S. because they did not have the (production) talent," says Gary Evans, a Canadian film historian and professor at the University of Ottawa. "If you count productivity over the years, you could count the number of films and see there weren't many."

The original plan laid out in the Massey Commission was to train Canadians to tell Canadian stories to us. It was a bonus if you could sell the story abroad as well.

Canada invested heavily in its own cinema after the Second World War.

"A whole infrastructure has been created, an infrastructure of technicians who are able to make films as Canadians," Evans says. "You don't have to go to America to make a film a Canadian film because you have the talent here that's been trained and that has experience."

What this means is Canada invested in and created an industry of which half is now highly dependent on telling an American story instead of our own - as the original plan called for.

Like any industry, it hurts when there is less work to go around.



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