Unless you're in "the industry," you probably don't read film trade magazines. Sure, you know about the weekly "Box Office Top 10" that runs in your newspaper's entertainment column, and that it currently lists such films as Signs and My Big Fat Greek Wedding.But you probably don't know the stats regarding Canadian films at the box office: there's no easy reference guide because, frankly, no one is eager to talk about it.
The 10 highest-grossing films of the year in Canada are all Hollywood product, from top-ranked Spider-Man at $45.8m, A Beautiful Mind at fourth place with $20.3m to Goldmember in the tenth position at $12.5m. Way off the list sits the highest grossing Canadian film, Men With Brooms, with just over $4m. This year so far, English-Canadian films account for 1.4% of the national box office. If this seems pathetically small, consider that the figure in 2001 was 0.2%: that's zero-point-two.
No other industrialised country with even a pretense of filmmaking ambition has such a small share of its national box office. The UK has consistently held 15-20% per cent, France was over 50% in 2001 and this year - to date - is around 40%. Spain has 11%. Australia, with a smaller population than Canada, had an 8% share - and they released fewer films than we did. And let's not lump Quebec into English Canada's mess: the local French-language film industry has a healthy 9.4% of the box office. If you're a member of the English-Canadian industry, these numbers are especially embarrassing. Yet they have been accepted as a fact of life, perhaps because the numbers are only discussed in the trades and not as part of a wider public discourse.
But the facts of life are about to change. Telefilm Canada, the principal source of financing for Canadian films, earlier this year laid down the law. (They actually announced it back in 2,000, but in classic Canadian fashion they've only recently decided to get tough about it.) The objective: that Canadian films take 5% of the Canadian box office by 2004.
For English-Canadian films, that means quadrupling the current returns. This would mean making seven or eight Men With Brooms in one year. It's a bold quest. Most people in the industry consider it a pipe dream, but no one dismisses its ambition. After all, everyone wants to be proud of what they do; it's hard to be proud if no one in your own country is paying, let alone paying attention.