Hollywood films tops at Canada's b.o.

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

With the crucial Christmas holiday period still to run its course, Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, on Tuesday said total domestic boxoffice through Nov. 17 stood at CAN$751.3 million ($659 million), up from CAN$711.2 million at the same point in 2005.

The rebound was due to the boxoffice this year from the likes of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "The Da Vinci Code" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."

2006 ticket sales will still likely fall short of 2004's impressive Canadian boxoffice haul of CAN$910.3 million. That year was driven by such bonafide 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 blockbuster releases like "Spider-Man 3" and "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" unspooling next summer.

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

For Canadian film, by contrast, 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, all of which failed to make a dent in the English 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 a 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 during the past year.

Canadian films held 4.3% of total screen-time nationwide, down from 2005's 5.3% market share.

English 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 blockbusters.
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