It's not happening on a Hollywood scale but just as in Tinseltown the international market is driving Canada's film and video industry. For the first time, international sales accounted for more than half of sales of Canadian content production, according to surveys by Statistics Canada for the years 1997-98 and 1998-99.
"It's a North American trend," Stats Can analyst Fidel Ifedi told ScreenDaily, although in the Canadian context, he added, "US movies dominate in Canada to such an extent than Canadian distributors have to look abroad to recoup their costs."
Overseas and US buyers accounted for a record $100m or 56% of distribution revenues from Canadian-content productions in 1998-99. The success of Montreal-based Filmline International's The Art Of War at the US box office this year - where it earned nearly $28m - will likely see that margin increase in next year's survey. This compares with only about one-third at the beginning of the 1990s. Combined with foreign sales of non-Canadian films, export sales in 1998-99 totalled $126m, up 40% from 1997-98. Combining international and local sales, Canadian film and video distributors achieved record sales of $1.36bn, a 16% increase on the previous year.
Foreign fare, overwhelmingly US-produced, continues to dominate the country's theatrical market with a 97% share. Canadian productions recorded an uptick in the theatrical market of a single percentage point, from 2% to 3%, from the previous year. Home video told a similar story, with foreign productions accounting for 98% of the more than $690m in local wholesale sales in 1998-99. Broadcast offered a bright note for cultural nationalists, with Canadian product increasing its market share in conventional television by eight points, to 24%, and five points, to 21%, in pay-TV. Total revenues is these markets were $247m and $38m respectively.
In all, foreign productions accounted for 86% of the $627m in total sales in the domestic market for films and videos, down from about 90% during much of the 1990s.
The survey polled the country's 200 film and video distributing and wholesale companies.