Canada keeps the laughter going

Media stimulus covers film, comedy festivals

TORONTO -- After first bailing out domestic broadcasters, Canada's media stimulus package on Wednesday spread to film and comedy festivals.

The Ontario provincial government said it will dole out CAN$11 million ($9.1 million) to local events including the Inside Out Film and Video Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival and the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

The move to mitigate the effect of the economic downturn on Ontario festivals follows the federal government this month directing another CAN$100 million ($82.5 million) in stimulus funds to marquee festivals such as Toronto and the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal.

Last month, Ottawa said it was considering the creation of a CAN$150 million ($121.5 million) fund to help rescue local TV operations at private broadcasters such as CTV and Canwest Global Communications Corp. as their TV ad revenue tanks in hard times.

Other recent film industry lifelines include a move by Ontario to make its tax credit for foreign producers permanent after California introduced its own subsidies to repatriate film and TV projects in New York, Canada or elsewhere.

And the city of Toronto this month agreed to acquire a 20% stake in Filmport, the Toronto film and TV studio, as it restructures under the management control of British studio operator Pinewood Shepperton.