'06 rebound for Canada's exhibitor biz

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Hollywood hits fared better than homegrown movies at the local Canadian multiplex this year as Captain Jack Sparrow and his band of pirates helped domestic exhibitors get the boxoffice monkey off their back after a dismal 2005.

With the crucial holiday period still to run its course, Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, said Tuesday that the total domestic boxoffice through Nov. 17 was CAN$751.3 million ($652 million), up from CAN$711.2 million at the same point last year.

The rebound was led by "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "The Da Vinci Code" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."

The Canadian boxoffice take will likely still fall short of 2004's impressive haul of CAN$910.3 million. That year was driven by such hits as "Shrek 2" and "Spider-Man 2."

At the same time, Howard Lichtman, president of Toronto marketing firm the Lightning Group, predicted that while 2006 was a "solid" year for Canadian boxoffice, next year will be a record-breaking one thanks to such potential blockbusters as "Spider-Man 3" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

"May to September in 2007 will be an endless summer for moviegoers, with hit after hit returning us to former glory days," Lichtman said.

But for Canadian film, 2006 was a disappointing year. The bilingual Quebec comedy "Bon Cop, Bad Cop," from Erik Canuel, was the top-grossing homegrown film, with about CAN$12.2 million ($10.7 million) in ticket receipts, making it the highest-grossing Canadian movie ever.

Christophe Gans' video game-inspired horror film "Silent Hill" and Mike Clattenburg's "Trailer Park Boys" finished second and third, respectively, among locally produced fare.

But after that, the fourth to 10th places nationwide for homegrown theatrical releases were filled by French-language Quebecois films, none of which made a dent in the English-language Canadian exhibition market.

These included "Le Secret de ma Mere," "Maurice Richard" and "Les Boys 4."

In all, the Canadian boxoffice for indigenous movies had reached CAN$32.4 million ($28.4 million) as of Nov. 17, according to Telefilm Canada, well down from the record CAN$44.1 million in 2005.

The rebound in boxoffice performance by Hollywood movies in 2006 also meant the relative market share for homegrown movies shrank. Canadian films held 4.3% of total screen-time nationwide, down from 5.3% in 2005.

English-language Canadian movies managed to increase their market share to 1.9%, up from 1.1% in 2005, but French-language films in Quebec — the sweet spot for the Canadian film industry — saw their share tumble to 17.2% from an impressive 26%.

The stumble by Quebec films after an impressive five-year run at the boxoffice is a blow to the continuing effort by the federal government, the country's main film financier, to extend the feeble reach of homegrown movies in a Canadian market otherwise dominated by Hollywood fare.
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