Canada 2013 in Review: Hollywood Stays Strong, Rob Ford Dominates Headlines

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Bower Jumping Car - H 2013
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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Bower Jumping Car - H 2013

U.S. studios retained Canada's box office crown, while homegrown sci-fi shows and sitcoms made their mark stateside as Hollywood North continued to go gangbusters.

Canada's biggest media export of 2013 was probably Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who became a worldwide sensation and the constant butt of jokes on late night TV in the U.S. for admitting to smoking crack cocaine and binge drinking while in office.

On the movie front, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, a Canada-Germany co-production, had a lackluster opening, but was still the best-performing Canadian movie at the local multiplex.

Kim Nguyen's War Witch was Canada's nomination for the best foreign language film category Oscar, but failed to make the short list for the award.

And while pay TV cord-cutting has picked up pace in Canada, traditional TV refused to die as the Academy Awards and the Super Bowl continued to reach the biggest network audiences in Canada.

Plus, local media giant Rogers Communications made a $4.9 billion, 12-year bet that expanding Canadians' access to NHL hockey will keep them onboard as cable subscribers.

For more about the year's highlights in the Canadian media and entertainment space, here is THR's look at the big industry stories of 2013:

Hollywood Keeps Canadian Box Office Crown
Success at the Canadian box office continued in 2013 for the major U.S. studios as strong performers like Despicable Me 2, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Wolverine drew film-goers to the local multiplex to see an array of Hollywood 2D and 3D titles.

Canada's box office total as of Dec. 19 reached $968.5 million for the first 50 weeks of the year, just down from $995.5 million in overall ticket receipts in 2012, according to the Motion Picture Theatre Association of Canada.

3D Movies Fueled Box Office for Canadian Exhibition Giant
Canadian movie theater giant Cineplex Entertainment posted higher box office grosses from its theaters in 2013 despite some box office flops in the U.S. after investing in 3D, UltraAVX, Imax and VIP theaters to snag premium ticket prices. And four Hollywood studios -- Warner Bros. Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Paramount Pictures Canada and Universal Pictures -- backed Cineplex as it unveiled a SuperTicket package, a first-ever bundling of a cinema ticket and a pre-order for a digital download of the same movie. 

All of this underlined how, despite the growing appeal of home entertainment systems, Canadians continue to enjoy tentpole movies on the big screen with a big crowd.

Netflix, iTunes Continue to Grow
U.S. network dramas, comedies and reality shows still dominate Canadian primetime. But local viewers in 2013 increasingly shifted to second, third and fourth screens in a trend that especially benefited Netflix Canada, Apple TV and other new digital players.

Canadians viewed an average of 28.2 hours of TV each week in 2012, just down from the 28.5 hours watched in 2011. Still, increased device ownership played to the strength of Netflix Canada, whose streaming service now has around 2.5 million households drawn to original series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.

Cable Unbundling Comes to Canada
Canadian viewers migrating online for TV content forced domestic cable and satellite TV giants to reluctantly bow to calls from Ottawa for cable unbundling, not least to dissuade cord cutters and cord shavers. 

An increasing pick-and-pay regime here started with 24/7 news channels, which carriers have been ordered to offer to all subscribers, either in channel packages or a la carte, by May 18, 2014. The move opens the door to Canadian cable and satellite TV operators eventually allowing subscribers to no longer purchase expensive packages of local, U.S. and other foreign channels and to only buy the TV channels they want.

Year of the Canadian Sci-Fi Hit
The break-out success of Orphan Black, starring Tatiana Maslany, on BBC America underscored U.S. appetite for Canadian sci-fi shows to add new content to their schedules. 

U.S. cablers have long enjoyed strong returns from British imports like Doctor Who and Broadchurch. Seeing ratings potential in Canadian fare, Syfy acquired werewolf drama Bitten after earlier success with Haven, Continuum, Lost Girl and original Syfy series Being Human from Montreal-based Muse Entertainment. 

There was also cross-border trade in sci-fi series, with Canada’s Showcase channel acquiring Syfy's Defiance, which is shot in Toronto, and the Being Human remake going to Space.

Canadian Indie Distribution Shakeup
The takeover of Alliance Films by Entertainment One to create a Canadian global-distribution giant left a vacuum that a host of new Canadian distribution veterans in 2013 moved to fill. 

The new eOne-Alliance Films combo took the top-end of the market, leaving other upstarts like Laurie May's Elevation Pictures, Kirk D'Amico's Pacific Northwest Pictures, genre distributor Raven Banner Entertainment, D Films and Vagrant Film Releasing to step up as mid-size distribution players. 

Meanwhile, eOne joined Lionsgate in facing down the major studios and U.S. specialty distributors in North America or as pan-European players across the Atlantic and elsewhere internationally.

No Joke: Canadian Sitcoms Migrate to U.S.
After selling the U.S. networks on scripted dramas like Rookie Blue and Motive, Canadians in 2013 started shopping homegrown comedies in Los Angeles

City's sperm donor comedy Seed survived lukewarm rookie season ratings to secure a second season order and a sale to The CW stateside. Then Canada secured its first sitcom collaboration between North American broadcasters as NBC ordered the Andrea Martin-comedy Working the Engels from Halfire-Core Entertainment and Shaw Media.

Other debuting Canadian comedies include Package Deal from Thunderbird Films for City, which includes guest-starring roles for Pamela Anderson and Eugene Levy, single camera comedy Satisfaction from DHX Media that CTV canceled after one season, and the Eva Longoria-starring animated comedy Mother Up! from Breakthrough Films, again for City.

Hollywood North Goes Gangbusters
Canada's generous tax credit regime continued to lure Hollywood to shoot films and TV shows north of the border in 2013. A mix of tax breaks, sound stages and technical crews in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec especially had A-list talent flying north for Hollywood tentpoles and international co-productions shot locally.

TV series shooting in Vancouver included ABC's Once Upon a Time and CW's Arrow, while Warner Bros.' Godzilla also shot in Canada.

Meanwhile, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel 2 saw production shift from Vancouver to Toronto where Ontario's tax credit is more generous. Toronto also hosted shoots for BBC America's Orphan Black, Quebec director Denis Villeneuve's Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and such NBCUniversal series as Suits and Defiance, plus CW's Beauty and the Beast and Nikita.