Internet to bring movies to remote communities

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TORONTO -- Using the Internet to deliver movies will open up the vast Canadian north to a new moviegoing market, domestic distributor Isuma Distribution International Inc. said Tuesday.

Backed by federal government investment, Montreal-based Isuma plans to create a permanent digital exhibition circuit in northern Canada, using the Internet to deliver film for theatrical projection to far-flung aboriginal communities.

Eliminating the studio middlemen that rarely distribute movies beyond a ribbon of urban markets running along the Canada-U.S. border, IDI will launch the Indigenous Film Network with the release today Nov. 22 in Nunavat of "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen," the Inuit-language period drama by Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn that opened the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

"Our film is not about the past, it's about what's happening today. How did we get into this mess in the first place and how can we ever get out of it? All indigenous people have a right to see this film to help figure out what to do about it," Kunuk said in a statement about his film's northern Canadian bow this week.

"Knud Rasmussen" is the follow-up to Kunuk and Cohn's 2001 "Atanarjuat the Fast Runner," a film based on an ancient Inuit legend that won the Camera d'Or for best first feature at Cannes before going on to win critical acclaim and boxoffice success.

The northern Canadian premiere for "Knud Rasmussen" will be followed with additional screenings in Pikangikum, Deer Lake and North Spirit Lake, Ontario, and in Kuujuaq, Nunavik, in northern Quebec.

"Knud Rasmussen" has done just under $200,000 in boxoffice in southern Canada since Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution released the epic drama Sept. 29. The CAN$900,000 ($789,000) Indigenous Film Network venture aims to not only bring the period drama to far-flung towns that might not otherwise see the movie on the big screen, but also expand feature film distribution to 200 remote Inuit, Metis and First Nations communities across northern Canada.

IDI will initially use portable high-definition projectors for screenings in remote communities and hopes to reach about CAN$500,000 ($438,000) in gross boxoffice receipts from approximately 50,000 admissions by May 2007.

In early 2008, the IFN venture plans to install projectors in select communities to deliver films regularly via Internet video download. Digital delivery of films is crucial to the success of the proposed northern Canadian exhibition circuit, as IDI needs to eliminate transporation costs over the country's vast geography.

Investors in IFN include Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, independent movie distributor Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution LP and the imagineNATIVE Film Festival.
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