The upcoming film festival re minds us that, along with the traditional Hollywood fare, great Canadian films are being made by the folks in all those annoying white trailers.
The immense public support for the festival reminds us of the huge appetite for movies made outside of the Hollywood factory. But somehow, after it's over, the public goes back to watching movies like Beerfest at their local Cineplex.
Toronto-Danforth MPP Peter Tabuns thinks what's preventing Canadians from watching their own films is a lack of places to see them, and he's about to put forward a private member's bill that would force Ontario movie theatres to devote a set percentage of screen time to Canadian movies.
"The people in this city and province who have the talent have trouble getting films out there," Tabuns says.
Under his proposal, which he will introduce when the House resumes sitting in September, an amendment to the Film Classification Act would require theatres to show a certain number of homegrown movies to qualify for a government-issued exhibitor's licence. The quota of films is still undecided, but Tabuns says it wouldn't be hard to improve on the current Canadian content in theatres less than 5 per cent.
"This is one of the best things that could happen for Ontario filmmakers," says Ron Haney, CEO and executive director of the Ontario branch of the Directors Guild of Canada. "Regulating screen time for Canadian films can and should be part of a coordinated industry-wide effort to develop a Canadian film industry."
IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) also expresses support. "I think it's unfortunate we have to do it, but if that's what it takes to get more movies made and more movies viewed, great," says Rick Perotto, business representative of IATSE Local 667.
ACTRA, in fact, supported the idea of screen quotas in a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last year, saying, "The fundamental problem may well be that the government support measures are overwhelmingly designed to affect the supply side of the movie industry and not the demand side."
The theatres, however, argue that it's lack of demand, or butts in seats, that prevents them from showing Canadian films.
Pat Marshall, vice-president of communications and investor relations at Cineplex Entertainment, says theatres are already doing enough. "We probably bend the rules more in support of Canadian films," she says. "The reality is, the audience decides what's going to be played."
Rainbow Cinemas spokesperson Tom Hutchinson agrees. "You can legislate whatever you want. The room will be just as empty."
ACTRA Toronto executive director Brian Topp thinks it's all a matter of time, pointing out that enforcing Canadian content on the radio worked remarkably well to create a thriving music industry.
"Peter's bill doesn't solve all the issues, but at least people who want to see Canadian movies will be able to find them."