A group of Canadian film lovers hopes to launch an online video-on-demand service that specifically highlights homegrown content.   

The First Weekend Club, a federally funded non-profit group that works to build audiences for Canadian films, has launched an online campaign to make the streaming website a reality.   

It's hosted a pledge drive at the crowd-funding website Indiegogo.com and is seeking $20,000 in donations to get the project off the ground, perhaps as soon as early next year.   

A promo video appealing for donations includes cameos from Fred Ewanuick of Corner Gas, The Trotsky director Jacob Tierney, Café de Flores helmer Jean-Marc Vallée and several other Canadian filmmakers.   


Jean-Marc Vallée, director of Café de Flore is one of several directors promoting the First Weekend Club initiative. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

"It's something we've been discussing and working on for the last year actually, there's just really not a platform that's out there exclusively for Canadian film," said First Weekend Club founder Anita Adams, who's spent the last two decades working in the film and TV industry.

The site would offer a la carte rentals, not unlimited downloads like Netflix does, and would host a handpicked collection of top-notch films.   

"Unfortunately there is a big stigma associated with Canadian films still, a lot of people — the unconverted — look at it and they think Canadian film is not worthy of their 10 bucks at the theatre," Adams said. 

"So we do hope this will be an opportunity to introduce more people to Canadian film. We will not just put anything and everything up there just because it's Canadian —that would be damning."   

First launched in 2003, the First Weekend Club aims to raise awareness about new Canadian films and boost their opening box office. It currently has about 15,000 registered members who are signed up to get the latest news on Canadian releases.

A good first weekend means more opportunities for a film to get picked up in additional theatres and grow off word of mouth. But the odds are stacked against Canadian films in their opening weekends, particularly if they're facing off against a big Hollywood blockbuster with huge promotional budgets. If a film doesn't sell many tickets in its opening weekend it often means it quickly disappears from theatres.   

The First Weekend Club says less than three per cent of the films shown in theatres in English Canada are Canadian, and only 3.4 per cent of all box office sales in 2010 were for Canadian films.

While the group's focus was once on theatrical success, it's now hoping to also shine a spotlight on Canadian films once they've hit the rental market.   

"The bigger objective is to reach more people and help more people discover Canadian film, that is our mandate," Adams said.   

She admits the site's selection would be pretty modest at first, likely offering only a few titles to rent at launch. The first content deals would probably involve older films or titles that have been out for a couple of years.  But regardless of their age or budget, they'd all be quality Canadian films, Adams adds.   

The idea for the web streaming site was also developed out of concern for the group's long term future and its reliance on government funding.   

"We are a non-profit organization that is currently quite heavily dependent upon federal funding to operate and there's always that fear of the axe falling," Adams said. "We've been exploring different ways in which we can start generating revenue for the organization to help keep it going and this idea is one way that can really help support the organization."