ShowCanada to focus on local b.o. dip

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OTTAWA -- Despite rebounding fortunes for Hollywood movies at the North American boxoffice, sluggish tickets sales for Quebecois films has produced a smaller upswing in cinema ticket receipts north of the border, ShowCanada delegates will learn this week.

Howard Lichtman, president of Toronto-based consultancy the Lighting Group, is scheduled tell the annual convention of Canadian theater owners Thursday that the Canadian boxoffice picture is less rosy than in the U.S.

Lichtman said Monday that the U.S. boxoffice rose 5.5% to $9.49 billion in 2006, against boxoffice of $8.99 billion during a dismal 2005, while the Canadian boxoffice rose only marginally in 2006.

"Last year, native Quebec films, which are normally a large portion of the Quebec boxoffice, were down significantly. A big portion of our movie going every year comes from Quebec films playing in the Quebec marketplace," Lichtman said ahead of ShowCanada kicking off Tuesday in Niagara Falls, Ontario, and running through Friday.

ShowCanada annually gives Canadian cinema operators a sneak peak at Hollywood movies slated for release here this year and next. Movies or trailers set to screen this week include Sarah Polley's "Away From Her," from Capri Films, Odeon Films' "It's a Boy Girl Thing," TVA Films' "Gracie" and Paramount Pictures' "Shrek the Third."

Movie distributors, exhibitors and other industry executives agreed that better movies, particularly from the U.S., are driving the rebound in the boxoffice.

"There is better product (from the U.S.) this year, and this business is product driven," said Syd Sniderman, general manager of buying and booking at Theatre Agencies, which books films for theaters in western Canada.

Seminars on current industry issues, including digital cinema, piracy, alternative programming and marketing and branding using new technologies and the Internet are also on the agenda.

And National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian will headline a panel on new digital captioning technologies to include Sightline's Nanci-Linke Ellis and Alan Grobard, ProActive Community co-founder Paul Good and eMagine vp sales and marketing Bruce Ridley.

Fithian also will give an industry address Friday that will range from shrinking windows and movie piracy to alternative programming.
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