Canada 2014 in Review: Hollywood Production Rebounds, Cable Unbundling Starts

Pacific Rim Robot Fight Scene in Rain - H 2013
Warner Bros. Pictures

Pacific Rim Robot Fight Scene in Rain - H 2013

Canadian film shined in competition in Cannes as the country's pubcaster was rocked by a sex scandal

2014 was a year when Hollywood film and TV production locally made a comeback, the CBC got crushed by a sex scandal after already being damaged by escalating job and programming cuts, and U.S. programming suppliers took fright as Canada moved headlong toward cable unbundling.

Collapse of Canadian Dollar Draws Los Angeles Producers North

The sudden collapse of the value of the Canadian dollar against the American greenback in 2014 steered Los Angeles producers to Toronto and Vancouver for extra budgetary savings while making movies and TV shows.

Guillermo del Toro directed his haunted house movie Crimson Peak and the FX show The Strain in Toronto, while also doing preproduction on Pacific Rim 2, which will shoot at Pinewood Toronto Studios in 2015. And Vancouver has a busy 2015 in view, with Star Trek 3 to shoot mainly in the west coast production hub. 

Vancouver is also to host production on Steven Spielberg's The BFG and Uncharted, Sony’s adaptation of the video game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

Canada Calls for Cable Unbundling by Carriers

The past year saw Ottawa set in motion plans to compel cable and satellite TV providers to allow subscribers to pick-and-pay for TV channels they want to view.

During regulatory hearings, U.S. suppliers warned they may pull popular American primetime series from the Canadian airwaves, or distribute the shows via digital portals, to stop any cable unbundling precedents spilling over into the U.S. market. All of which could see Canadian TV viewers fuming in 2015 over not being able to see their favorite American shows.

CBC Beset by Sex Scandal, Faces Death Spiral in Digital Age

2014 will be seen as the year the CBC was rocked by a sex scandal.

Former radio host Jian Ghomeshi was fired by the embattled pubcaster after allegations of sexual abuse by a former lover. Within days, Toronto police began investigating Ghomeshi after nine women approached Canadian media outlets with more allegations of sexual assault and sexual abuse.

The disgraced media star ended the year facing four criminal charges of sexual assault and one count of choking. Meanwhile, the CBC continued slashing jobs and programming to balance its books amid sharply less government funding and the loss of NHL game revenue.

Battle-Ready Canadian SVODS Fight Back Against Netflix Canada

Canadian TV was overshadowed in 2014 as major broadcasters launched subscription streaming services to compete against Netflix Canada.

Rogers Media and Shaw Media, backed by super content deals from major Hollywood studios, first launched Shomi. Then rival Bell Media acquired a giant HBO programming library before launching CraveTV to stop cable subscribers migrating to Netflix Canada.

The U.S. video streaming giant launched here in late 2010 and dominates the local SVOD space with 4 million subscribers.

Hollywood Bristles as Toronto Film Festival Unveils Anti-Telluride Premiere Policy

The major studios in 2014 faced later screening dates at the Toronto Film Festival as the Canadian festival insisted on world premieres only for its opening weekend to defend its reputation against Telluride as the official awards season launchpad.

Some films, like Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman, skipped Toronto altogether. Fest organizers in Toronto are betting Hollywood will eventually embrace a stretched-out film schedule in 2015.

That's especially after Toronto's top 2014 audience winner, Morten Tyldum's Benedict Cumberbatch-starrer The Imitation Game, screened in the Canadian festival's second half after debuting in Telluride. 

Canadian Film Rides Critical Wave in Cannes

In a standout year for its homegrown movies, Canada had three films by David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan and Xavier Dolan compete for the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

In the end, Dolan's Mommy shared Cannes' Jury Prize with veteran Jean-Luc Godard, and Julianne Moore won the best actress prize in Cannes for her star turn in Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars. On the downside, Egoyan's The Captive endured a disastrous critical reception in Cannes.

Canadian film also saw Quebec directors like Jean-Marc Vallee, Denis Villeneuve and Philippe Falardeau in 2014 bring their idiosyncratic visions to helming major studio and U.S. indie titles, and possibly Oscar-season contenders.