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Why aren't Canadian films successful?

Filmmaker Paul Donovan once compared the difficulty of making a movie in Canada to climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. Faced with an indifferent public, harsh critics, limited funds, and foreign-owned movie houses, filmmaking in Canada is, by necessity, a labour of love. Canadian gems like The Barbarian Invasions and Nobody Waved Goodbye have succeeded because of steadfast determination. CBC Archives explores the birth and growth of Canada's film industry.

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If only Canadian filmmakers had a big promotional budget, decent screen-time, and a big production budget, they couldn't lose -- this has been the oft-repeated wish of Canadian filmmakers throughout the decades. And now, finally, one movie is finally getting the red carpet treatment. Foolproof, an action-packed, glossy heist film will hit theatres this fall, as shown in this CBC Television report. The hype is huge but will the film succeed? 
Foolproof, made by director William Phillips, cost $7 million to produce. The film opened on over 200 screens across the country and had a splashy $2 million marketing campaign. These figures are not huge compared to American popcorn movies but were very big by Canadian standards. Included in the promotional scheme: a music video, a $10,000 diamond treasure hunt in eight Canadian cities, massive billboards and a Pizza Hut tie-in.

• The film brought in a disappointing $200,000 in its opening weekend and was generally panned by critics.

• Globe and Mail critic Liam Lacey wrote, "Let's hope these new movies [Foolproof and Mambo Italiano] make out like bandits at the box office because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate: Millions in tax dollars tossed away on second-rate popcorn movies. Spending money on culture is one thing, but, in the memorable words of former Canada Council head Mavor Moore, there's just no good excuse for losing money on crap." — Oct. 3, 2003.

• As of 2004, Telefilm Canada spends approximately $40 million per year in the production, development, distribution and marketing of Canadian feature films.

• In 2002, Canadian Heritage established the Canadian Feature Film Fund. The program aims to develop and retain filmmakers, foster the diversity of Canadian feature films and boost audience levels. Canadian Heritage set a target to capture five per cent of the domestic box office in five years. As of 2002, English-language films captured 1.1 per cent of the domestic box office share while French-language films held 12.5 per cent.
Medium: Television
Program: Northbeat
Broadcast Date: Oct. 3, 2003
Guest(s): Carl Bessai, Nuria Bronfman, Brian Glisserman, William Phillips, Ryan Reynolds, Shirley Veracruze
Reporter: Marcella Munro
Duration: 7:21
Film credits: A Problem with Fear, Burns Film Ltd., Fear Alberta Ltd., micro scope media. Foolproof, Alliance Atlantis Communications, Ego Film Arts.

Last updated: January 9, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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