Canadian distributors feel TIFF squeeze

Indies send fewer films to fest because of escalating costs

TORONTO -- Hard times have hit Canadian indie distributors at this week's Toronto International Film Festival as they launch fewer titles in local theaters.

Patrice Theroux, chairman of the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters (CAFDE), said a new revenue-sharing agreement between domestic distributors and TIFF has virtually halved the number of non-studio titles launched at the festival to around 43 films.

Theroux said the culprit is escalating travel and talent costs to bring a movie's cast and creative to Toronto to hype an upcoming release.

"It's down to the success of the (Toronto) festival. If you're a producer, you might not go to Brussels, but you want to go to Toronto. And everything gets more expensive during the festival," he said.

In better times, Canadian indie distributors brought an average 80 domestic and foreign titles to TIFF, many foreign-language and U.S. indie films with an American distributor attached.

The new revenue-sharing agreement follows the festival in recent years pulling in higher box office receipts and sponsorship funds just as Canadian distributors faced rising costs to bring titles to Toronto.

"We did ask the festival to work with us to reduce that number of movies. Asking the distributors to be part of 80 movies doesn't do justice to the marketing required for the festival," Theroux said.

Theroux is also president of filmed entertainment at E1 Entertainment, which holds the Canadian distribution rights to 21 separate TIFF films this week, including Atom Egoyan's "Chloe," Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," and the George Clooney-starrer "The Men Who Stare at Goats."

Other major Canadian players active at TIFF include Alliance Films, Maple Pictures and newly launched D Films.