Canadian indies see boxoffice growth

'Twilight' pushes E1 Entertainment to sixfold increase

TORONTO -- Canadian independent movie distributors are posting major boxoffice gains thanks to a raft of high-profile U.S. indie releases.

E1 Entertainment on Tuesday reported a sixfold increase in 2008 domestic boxoffice, thanks to the release of Summit Entertainment's vampire hit "Twilight" into the Canadian market.

Toronto-based E1 said that it took in CAN$27.8 million ($22.7 million) at the local multiplex last year, compared with CAN$3.67 million in 2007 receipts. A CAN$17.2 million ($14 million) boxoffice contribution from "Twilight" lifted E1 to a 3% market share.

In September, E1 signed a multiterritory agreement with Summit, in addition to separate output deals with IFC, Yari Film Group and Lakeshore Entertainment.

The "Twilight" release enabled E1 to give rival Maple Pictures a run for its money after Maple reported CAN$37 million ($30.3 million) in domestic boxoffice for 2008, or a 4.2% share, on the strength of Lionsgate titles including "Saw V," "Rambo" and the martial-arts action pic "The Forbidden Kingdom."

Maple also began releasing Miramax titles in Canada last year after the U.S. studio did not renew its previous agreement with rival Alliance Films.

U.S. distributors typically acquire the North American rights to films, then sublicense them in Canada via output deals with local partners.

In the past year, E1 and Maple have bulked up on buzzworthy U.S. indie titles to do battle at the local multiplex with market leader Alliance Films.

Montreal-based Alliance, which was acquired last year by Goldman Sachs & Co., this month reported CAN$131.6 million ($108 million) in domestic boxoffice revenue for 2008, a 14% market share.

The Alliance business flowed from such releases as "Sex and the City" "Burn After Reading" and "Righteous Kill," secured from a list of U.S. suppliers that includes New Line, Relativity Media, Focus Features and the Weinstein Co.
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