dialogue with Victor Loewy


Victor Loewy is expected soon to be named CEO of Alliance Atlantis Motion Picture Distribution after it was acquired by Goldman Sachs and EdgeStone Capital. His task: maintain long-running deals with Hollywood suppliers. The Hollywood Reporter Canada bureau chief Etan Vlessing caught up with Loewy as he prepped for the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Hollywood Re- porter: The Canadian distribution industry is going through a major restructuring. How do you see the sector taking shape once the dust settles?

Victor Loewy: There's going to be a bunch of other distributors on the horizon. They've just announced that Seville has been sold to Entertainment One. This will have an impact because this is a public company with bigger means. It will light up the scene. Those companies will bid for films, whether Seville or Robert's (Lantos) new company. So there will be a realignment of sorts and we'll see how this plays out.

THR: While your Canadian competitors would like a bite of your dominant business, they concede your lock on suppliers like New Line will not be easily dislodged. Would you agree?

Loewy: I do have a lock and I do have deals that are in place, and I'm the constant link to the suppliers. Things have changed over the years. The only constant is me. I've been here for 34 years. For all that time, I've been keeping the suppliers happy and informed, and that's really hard to change. But still, it doesn't have to be with the suppliers that Alliance Atlantis has. There are some other companies around. At this point, whatever they can get they will get and handle.

THR: How do you judge the Canadian exhibition sector you and your rivals are releasing movies into?

Loewy: After a fairly slow period last year, people were crying that the theater business would change, that the whole model would change. What we've seen this year is really not that much has changed and that people are still going to the cinema — that the big, flat screen really hasn't had much impact on moviegoing.

THR: Has the Canadian exhibition sector followed or diverged from the American market?

Loewy: One change we do see in Canada is that the admission price is way below the admission price in the U.S. In most cases in Canada, the admission price is $9.95. The Canadian boxoffice is proportionally lower than in the U.S. I also think that we're falling behind in the number of screens in this country, proportionally to the U.S. And I'm asking myself about the future, because a lot of films will be shown in 3-D next year and there's only three theaters in Canada with real 3-D, as opposed to 1,500 in the U.S. Those are big questions that people have to look into.

THR: The Canadian broadcast sector is going through a shakeout. What impact is that having on sales of movie product to TV outlets?

Loewy: A lot of television stations have changed networks and a lot of networks have changed hands. I really don't know how this will affect us and whether they will continue to buy films. Whether Rogers Communications, which has never been a player in that field, will want to be a player and show movies — we don't know that. They could be better than the previous owner or they could be worse.

THR: What impact do you see from Allarco Entertainment breaking Canada's duopoly in the premium pay TV market and launching a third service?

Loewy: There's going to be minimal impact on a company like ours. It will have a good impact on other Canadian distributors. They now have an outlet to show their films on pay. That's a window they didn't have. I don't know what they're paying. But certainly, given Allarco's small subscriber base, the prices they are paying are likely far smaller than the other two (Movie Central and TMN). But still it's an additional window and that's good news.

THR: Some distributors are taking full advantage of emerging online portals, seeing them as a possible game-changer. Do you agree?

Loewy: At this point, I don't want to count this as a potential revenue source. We're far away from this because at this point there's no transition from the computer screen to the TV screen. Until that happens, people won't want to watch films on their computer screen, unless they want to watch films during office hours. I don't see people paying anything to watch movies on their computer screens until they can transfer to a bigger screen. So we're sitting and waiting.

THR: But you're going online to pursue potential audiences for your films?

Loewy: The biggest change for us is we're reallocating resources away from network television and away from other media. And we're spending more and more on various sites because that's where the people are.

THR: Which traditional media is getting fewer of your ad dollars these days?

Loewy: We're taking dollars away from television more than from magazines and newspapers. This country has too few magazines anyway. We're definitely allocating fewer resources to newspapers, and we're drastically cutting ad dollars for network TV and shifting more to cable channels and to the Internet. Network TV has priced itself out of the market. The prices they're charging are outrageous and criminal. And we're not reaching as many people as we used to. People are just sampling and time-shifting and zapping the ads.

THR: Where on the Web are you putting your ad dollars?

Loewy: We want to do a lot of things with sites like MySpace, where you can't really advertise, but you do other stuff. The other sites are hard to target. The only sites easier to reach audiences on are the sports Web sites. Everyone goes on those sites for scores. The rest I don't know yet.