Canadian films recover in '07

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TORONTO -- What a reversal of fortune. This time last year, boxoffice success for Erik Canuel’s “Bon Cop, Bad Cop” and Mike Clattenburg’s “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” barely got English-language Canadian movies to 1.9% of the screen time in domestic cinemas.

But for the taxpayer propping up a beleaguered Canadian film industry with continuing subsidies, local films barely stood up on theatrical release outside Quebec.

Fast forward to 2007 and Canadian film has recovered, with David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” earning an impressive CAN$2.5 million ($2.45 million) in domestic boxoffice after four weeks in release.

Also in show is Sarah Polley with her debut feature, “Away From Her,” posting CAN$1.4 million ($1.37 million) after 16 weeks in local theaters.

This in a market where Hollywood releases dominate nearly 90% of screen time nationwide and CAN$1 million ($980,000) in ticket sales for a homegrown film is considered blue heaven.

U.S. boxoffice hits in Canada this year included many stateside standouts, with “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” leading the pack as well as other hits including “Knocked Up,” “Ratatouille,” “The Transformers,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Simpsons Movie.”

Against that competition, Canadian films that performed include the Rob Stewart documentary “Sharkwater,” which grossed CAN$780,000 ($764,000), and Francois Girard’s epic drama “Silk,” starring Keira Knightley, which has brought in CAN$725,000 ($710,000) in ticket sales since Sept. 21, despite lukewarm reviews.

The good news is that English-Canadian filmmakers have struck a chord with audiences. They are making thoughtful movies with commercial appeal, and not by co-opting Hollywood with homegrown popcorn movies that mostly die an unheralded death at the boxoffice.

Better yet, the bandwagon for local fare is back in Quebec, where French-language films are doing impressive business again after a lean 2006.

Alain Desrochers’ action film “Nitro” has earned CAN$3.5 million ($3.43 million). During the July 1st holidays, “Nitro” beat out “Ratatouille” and “Live Free or Die Hard” to be the No. 1 film at the boxoffice in Quebec that weekend.

“Les Trois P’Tits Cochons,” Patrick Huard’s debut feature about the infidelities of three brothers, has grossed CAN$4.2 million ($4.1 million) at the boxoffice after eight weeks in theaters. There have been several other Quebecois performers as well.

Whether successful Quebecois films can cross over into the English Canadian market -- especially as Denys Arcand’s “L’Age des Tenebres” gets set for a December theatrical release -- may largely determine whether the resurgence in Canadian film grows to a sustained renaissance.
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