Montreal-based TVA is winding down its international sales operations and executive vice president of distribution, Jean Bureau has left the company.
The closure comes as TVA's ultimate owner, Quebec-based publishing and communications conglomerate Quebecor seeks to cut costs following its $3.3bn acquisition of cable company Groupe Videotron, TVA's original owner, in September 2000.
While TVA's Canadian distribution operation will continue to operate, industry sources suggest even that business is unlikely to survive the cost-cutting exercise. Said one industry source, "[Quebecor head] Pierre-Karl Peledeau will look at their numbers and say why are we bothering'"
Canadian independent distributors hold about 20% of the Canadian theatrical marketplace, with Alliance Atlantis holding better than 75% of that share. But even that figure belies the lack of product available to a Canadian company without a sub-distribution pipeline like Alliance Atlantis deals with Miramax, New Line and Artisan.
Indeed, TVA is rumoured to have tried to poach the Artisan deal away from Alliance Atlantis. "There are too many distributors in Canada," said Andy Myers of Blackwatch Releasing, which is enjoying the fruit of its relationship with Sony Pictures Classics, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. "Look at how much indie product is available in Spain and how little there is in Canada and yet Spain has fewer indie distributors."
Last year TVA distributed Canada's highest-grossing production, Christian Duguay's thriller The Art Of War, starring Wesley Snipes although such box office success is rare. It's widely believed the company paid too much for the 40-title distribution deal it signed last year with StudioCanal. "When you don't have a steady supply of product, that's the kind of mistake you make, one-offs that come around and bite you on the ass, " commented another rival.
Still, there are no immediate signs of a TVA retrenchment on the domestic front: this week the company picked up French box office smash Le Verite Si Je Mens from M6 for distribution across Canada. TVA International, formerly Motion International, was formed from the production and distribution business of Astral Media, which Astral sold to Videotron's majority controlled TVA Group.