Canadian Distributors Hire Hussain Amarshi as Head

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The Mongrel Media topper will look to get more screen time for homegrown films on TV and cinema screens otherwise dominated by Hollywood fare.

TORONTO - Canadian indie film distributors have tapped Mongrel Media president Hussain Amarshi to lead their lobby group as it seeks more exposure for homegrown movies on TV and cinema screens otherwise dominated by Hollywood fare.

Amarshi, as president of the Canadian Association of Film Distributors and Exporters, represents independents facing seismic industry shifts as a recent wave of mergers and takeovers have left fewer players in an increasingly winner-take-all market.

"Where people compete and adapt in a more consolidated marketplace, you need more regulatory intervention to ensure fair play," Amarshi said.

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The Canadian indie distribution sector has consolidated with the former Alliance Films acquiring Maple Pictures, a combination that in turn was purchased by Entertainment One.

That Canadian marketplace is also dominated by exhibition giant Cineplex, which gives most of its finite screen space to Hollywood movies that promise big openings, and domestic broadcasters placing their biggest production and marketing bets on U.S. series with recognizable cast and proven showrunners.

That leaves Canadian film distributors, who depend on U.S. supply deals to drive their businesses, elbowed aside when they crash the party with local titles needing word and mouth to secure a wider audience.

"I would love to see more competition it the exhibition space or, failing that, a more generous attitude to screen time for Canadian film," Amarshi urged.

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He sees Canadian exhibitors especially impatient with local titles, yanking them before they have a chance to break through, even as Hollywood titles survive on local screens after failed launches because the major studios are long-time suppliers.

"Canadian films take a little while to get their footing. You have to introduce people to them. They have to sample them," Amarshi argued.

CAFDE represents major and minor indie distributors, including Entertainment One, Mongrel Media, Pacific Northwest Pictures and Kinosmith.