Canada Looks Beyond Theatrical Revenue to Justify Indie Film Investment

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Telefilm Canada's "success index" will now count festival trophies and international sales to measure how homegrown movies perform.

TORONTO - It seems the Canadian film industry is ready to wave the white flag when it comes to grabbing market share from popular Hollywood movies at the local multiplex.

Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, on Wednesday introduced a new yardstick to measure how Canadian films perform commercially and culturally at home and abroad.

The “success index” gives Telefilm scope to look beyond theatrical revenue to cultural criteria like trophies won at film festivals and award season competitions to justify generous taxpayer investment in homegrown directors.

“Telefilm and Canada’s audiovisual industry believe that theatrical box-office earnings, while still very important, tell only a part of the story, given the industry’s increasing brand appeal on the international scene and the expansion of online distribution platforms,” Telefilm Canada chair Michel Roy said Wednesday.

The success index also means jettisoning Telefilm’s long-standing 5 percent solution to Canadian film, where it aimed for homegrown movies to secure 5 percent of the country’s overall box office.

For a brief moment in 2005, Canadian film’s theatrical take reached 5.2 percent.

But otherwise the industry never again approached the 5 percent box office target as Hollywood movies continue to dominate screen time at the local multiplex.

French-language movies made in Quebec like Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies and Phillippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar remain banner-carriers for the Canadian film industry at international festivals and markets.

By contrast, English-language Canadian films have consistently fallen well short of targets set by Telefilm Canada, feeding into a national inferiority complex about how local movies stand up to the Hollywood juggernaut.

So the cultural cops in Ottawa will now remove the 5 percent millstone round the industry’s neck and start counting festival trophies and foreign sales to impress politicians in Ottawa that control the industry's purse strings.

The success index will give a 60 percent weighting to Canadian box office receipts and gross domestic and international sales, another 30 percent weighting to cultural criteria and a 10 percent weighting to measure private versus public funding in a homegrown movie.

That last industrial measure reflects how government funding accounts for the bulk of production and marketing budgets for homegrown Canadian movies.

Besides introducing a success index, Telefilm is also purshing Canadian filmmakers to co-produce more movies with international partners, and is considering allowing them to cast more Hollywood actors to secure that foreign coin.