CANADA

Protest at the theatre

LISA VAN DUSEN March 14 1988
CANADA

Protest at the theatre

LISA VAN DUSEN March 14 1988

Protest at the theatre

The untimely ending left movie fans frustrated and at least one Quebec government minister furious. On Feb. 18, during the same week in which the film Broadcast News received seven Oscar nominations, its Canadian exhibitor, Cineplex Odeon Corp., abruptly pulled it from Quebec theatres. The company initially offered no reason for the decision, but other people in industry-related positions, including Quebec Cultural Affairs Minister Lise Bacon, said that they knew what the company was doing. An angry Bacon accused the film’s distributor, Astral Bellevue Pathé Inc., of “playing a game” with the government to pressure it to withdraw planned changes to the province’s Cinema Act.

Bacon’s controversial measures would curtail the run of many Englishlanguage films and increase the number of French-language movies shown in the province. Under the present terms of the act, which was passed in 1983, no movie can be screened for longer than 60 days unless a Frenchdubbed or subtitled version is made available, or is in preparation. Bacon’s proposed changes will limit the time period during which English prints can be screened in the absence of an

equal number of French prints, and encourage dubbing to be contracted in Quebec rather than France. The amended law would allow distributors to screen only one English print in the province unless the movie is dubbed in Quebec.

In the case of Broadcast News, the government gave it a 60-day screening permit effective last Dec. 25, then extended the permit to let it continue its run in three theatres until a Frenchdubbed version could be released. But Cineplex Odeon officials clearly wanted to take advantage of the movie’s immense popularity to underscore their dissatisfaction with the proposed changes. One company official said privately that the company withdrew the movie despite the permit extension in order to respect “the spirit” of Bacon’s amendments, which were passed in December. (The way the law will be applied will be decided this spring or summer, when cabinet approves regulations further defining the law.) Then, last Friday, the same day on which a dubbed French-language version opened in Montreal, Cineplex Odeon returned the English-language version to Montreal filmgoers.

Many film industry executives say that by rigidly enforcing dubbing—

which costs about $50,000 per film —the law will have the effect of closing the Quebec market to low-budget films made in languages other than French. Said Toronto native Ted Kotcheff, director of such films as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Joshua Then and Now: “It is ridiculous. The French cinema is much healthier than English cinema in Canada.”

But defenders of the proposed legislation accused Cineplex of distorting the interpretation of the law in order to win over public sentiment. Declared André Guérin, president of the province’s Cinema Board, ^ which oversees impleg mentation of the Cinema ^ Act: “There will be con| sultations with the in£ dustry before anything is 5 passed. This isn’t Chile, it’s a democratic society. What are they trying to prove?” As well, many francophone film-makers support the legislation, which they regard as a necessary step against the domination of Englishlanguage movies in the province’s theatres. A recent study has shown that the dominance of English-language films shown in Quebec has risen to the present level of 45 per cent of the total from 29 per cent in 1978.

The existing law has recently produced a notable restriction on the choice of movies available in the province. When the 60-day permit granted for Raw, a film of a performance by American comedian Eddie Murphy, expired on Feb. 11, its exhibitor, Famous Players Corp., withdrew it from theatres. Famous Players officials said that the film was impossible to dub or subtitle. They added that the company was concerned it might have to withdraw its popular movie Good Morning Vietnam when its permit expired because of problems dubbing the fast-paced dialogue of its star, comedian Robin Williams. Declared Carole Boudreault, director of booking for Famous Players in Quebec: “It is not easy to find someone who can speak as fast as Robin Williams in French and still be funny.” Faced with that dilemma, Quebec filmgoers may find that, unlike an old entertainment adage, the show must not always go on.

— LISA VAN DUSEN in Montreal