TORONTO (CP) _ The Trailer Park Boys are a lot of things: dope smokers, drunks, petty criminals. But now add "potential saviours of the Canadian film industry" to the CVs of Julian, Ricky and Bubbles. After years of disappointing box office performances by Canadian movies, the industry is on an upswing thanks largely to films such as "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie" and "Bon Cop, Bad Cop," the flick that is now the top-grossing film in Canadian history, knocking "Porky’s" off its perch after 25 years.
As of Sept. 29, a week before "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie" opened to make it the No. 11 film in North America, Canadian productions had a 4.2 per cent share of the box office this year, Telefilm Canada reports. That figure will rise when the Thanksgiving weekend success of "Trailer Park Boys" is factored in _ it made $1.3 million over the long weekend, the biggest opening-weekend box office ever for an English-language Canadian film. And there are more highly anticipated Canadian films still to come this year. Sarah Polley’s "Away From Her," starring Julie Christie in a role that’s generating Oscar buzz, and the zombie film "Fido" are due out in the weeks to come, meaning homemade movies are on course to outperform last year’s films. In 2005, Canadian productions had a 5.3 per cent share of the domestic box office. Wayne Clarkson, executive director of Telefilm Canada, is delighted.
"We’re definitely on a kind of cinematic roll," says Clarkson, who once lay awake at night fretting that his headstone would read: "Never more than two per cent."
"And the best part is we still have a lot of good movies to come this year."
There’s one caveat to all the good news, however: French-speaking movie-goers are carrying the rest of the country. Canadian films commanded 26.6 per cent of the box office in Quebec last year, compared with a dismal 1.1 per cent elsewhere in Canada.
"We are sort of riding a tsunami of success in Quebec," Clarkson says. "I don’t think any of us could have imagined the unbelievable success of Quebec."
Clarkson is referring to the period five years ago when Telefilm Canada, the country’s largest funding source for film and television, started up its controversial Canada Feature Film Fund aimed at increasing the box office share of Canadian movies in both official languages. The initiative was greeted with suspicion by filmmakers like Atom Egoyan and Polley, who feared Telefilm Canada was fixated on the bottom line rather than quality filmmaking. But the two have never been mutually exclusive, Clarkson points out. The challenge, he says, is getting the rest of Canada to watch home-grown fare the way Quebecers do _ and "Trailer Park Boys" may be on the way to making that happen.
"You don’ t turn around 100 years of cultural indoctrination in a short period of time," Clarkson says of English-Canada’s historical preference for American movies. English-Canadians, he points out, are inundated with the massive American marketing machine for U.S. film and television.
"But we are seeing changes. ‘Bon Cop, Bad Cop’ is doing well in English Canada. … We look forward to continued box office success for the ‘Trailer Park Boys.’ And Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’ has done very well in English Canada."
"Water," in fact, has been submitted to represent Canada in the bid for a nomination in the best foreign-language film category at the 79th Academy Awards early next year. The movie is the all-time highest grossing Hindi-language film in North America. But it’s "Trailer Park Boys" that may be on the way to doing something remarkable, if the opening weekend box office is any indication. An official at Alliance Atlantis says the film is, not surprisingly, doing well in Nova Scotia where the action takes place, but also in the West. And rural and suburban Canadians are coming out to see the movie in addition to urbanites.
"It has a broad, mainstream audience," a spokeswoman for Alliance Atlantis said Wednesday. For Clarkson, it’s just further reason to celebrate.
"It’s one of those special moments that we rarely do in Canada, when you have to stand back and wallow in the accomplishments and wallow in the success."