The American Movie Industry: The Business of Motion Pictures

By Gorham Anders Kindem | Go to book overview

17
Cultural Dependency in Canada's Feature Film Industry

Manjunath Pendakur

In 1925 D. W. Griffith advised Canadians, "You should not be dependent on either the United States or Great Britain. You should have your own films and exchange them with those of other countries. You can make them just as well in Toronto as in New York." More than half a century later, Canada's screens are still dominated by imported feature films, most of which come from the United States.1

This is not to say Canada does not produce its own feature films. After a decade of public assistance to production through the Canadian Film Development Corporation, the number of films produced in the country is steadily rising. A generation of actors, producers, and directors has been created, some of whom have won international acclaim. But faced with tough competition from U.S. films in the domestic and international markets, profitability for films made in Canada is severely limited. While the branch plants of U.S. film distribution companies and their affiliated theater circuits are thriving in Canada, the same cannot be said of independent, Canadian-owned enterprises in production, distribution, and exhibition.2

An argument commonly heard in the Canadian film industry is that moviegoers in Canada freely chose U.S. films over Canadian and other films because the former have superior box-office ingredients, such as stars, sets, and so forth. This myth of consumer sovereignty masks the film-distributing companies' ability to create demand through massive advertising. Moreover, audiences can only be formed for films that are effectively available to them. The free-choice argument is hollow because it assumes free and open competition between American and Canadian film production and distribution companies for theatrical markets.

To understand why Canada is the biggest foreign consumer of Ameri

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