With the disappearance of video clubs, several Quebec films are almost impossible to find

The disappearance of video clubs will have had the effect of complicating access to several films. Key works of Quebec cinema are practically impossible to find today. No platform broadcasts them. It is often impossible to even rent them on the Internet to watch them. To the great dismay of several filmmakers.

Among them: Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, whose first feature film, The ring, has been missing since the closure of its distributor, Christal Films. “The film fell through… Teachers call me to be able to present it in class, and unfortunately I cannot guide them,” she laments.

I find it absurd that tons of Quebec films that taxpayers financed are no longer accessible, unless you go to the library or manage to find an old DVD

Impossible to name all the Quebec films which, for various reasons, are currently unavailable in digital format. But let us cite among others The red violin, by François Girard, A crab in the head, by André Turpin, and Affective memories, by Francis Leclerc: three films which won the Jutra for best film, the highest distinction in the industry in Quebec, but which are currently nowhere to be found.

“I find it absurd that tons of Quebec films that taxpayers have financed are no longer accessible, unless you go to the library or manage to find an old DVD,” laments in turn in an interview with Duty director Myriam Verreault.

The latter was the first to sound the alarm last week on social networks. There is currently no trace on the Internet of his first feature film, West of Pluto, a low-budget film released in 2009. Festival promoters, teachers and even film buffs regularly contact Myriam Verreault to ask her where we can find a copy of the film. The filmmaker has come to send them digital copies for free, even though she knows very well that it is illegal.

“It must happen about ten times a year. I understand that the distributor doesn’t want to pay to try to sell it on a platform. But the least we could do would be for it to at least be available to rent. The distribution model in Quebec needs to be completely reviewed,” maintains the director.

Owned by Americans

West of Pluto is distributed by Films Séville, which has long been the main player in the cinema industry in Quebec. This company still exists, but it ceased its distribution activities in Quebec in the summer of 2022. Its former manager, Patrick Roy, created a new company, Immina Films, which manages the Quebec catalog of Seville in terms of broadcasts. on television and on platforms across the country.

Seville, which keeps a few employees in Montreal, still remains the owner of its catalog, which includes many classics of Quebec cinema. In 2007, the company was purchased by the Toronto-based eOne, which was in turn swallowed by the American giant Hasbro in 2019. Last year, the eOne catalog, which therefore includes that of Seville, passed between the hands of the Hollywood company Lionsgate. This is what makes some in the industry say that Quebec has lost control over the distribution of its cinema.

“The Americans bought eOne, and they found themselves by default with a large part of the Quebec catalog. But that doesn’t interest them. It doesn’t pay for them. They’re stuck with it. This means that our catalog is currently dormant in the United States. Why not repatriate him? It could even be the government which finances this process,” suggests Myriam Verreault.

The president of Immina Films and former big boss of Seville, Patrick Roy, disagrees with this perception. “People have the reflex to say: “ah, they’re bad Americans”. Yes, Seville stopped acquiring films and distributing films, but the company continues to exist. Yes, I lost my job, but there are still people at the Seville office in Montreal. When Seville distributed films, the structure was already attached to an American company, and people were very happy that we were investing in the distribution of their film at the time. The presence of the Americans was not a problem, and it still is not,” he says.

Model explosion

For Patrick Roy, it is mainly economic reasons that explain why several Quebec films in the repertoire are unavailable on the platforms. “The film by Myriam Verreault, West of Pluto, had made $22,000 at the box office when it was released. At the time, it cost $2,000 to make the film available for rental on Apple. I wasn’t in Seville at the time, but it could very well be that it was judged that the film was not going to generate enough rentals to make this investment. There are several Quebec films like that,” says the man who is also president of the board of directors of Québec Cinéma.

Very few people still rent movies digitally from Apple or YouTube for about four or five dollars anyway, he continues. ” The film December 23 made more than two million at the box office and generated barely twenty rentals,” explains Patrick Roy, who is the distributor.

Today, access to cinema depends more on subscriptions to streaming services. However, the Netflix, Crave and Prime Video of this world are not ready to buy just any film. What’s more, there are all kinds of agreements surrounding distribution that explain that a film can appear on a platform, but only for a short period of time.

Everything seemed simpler during the golden age of VHS, then DVD. At the time, most films, even the most niche, were entitled to a physical copy after their theatrical release. They could easily be found in video stores, even several years after their release.

“We have been witnessing market segmentation with platforms for several years. Accessibility of films has become a problem. This is not just true for Quebec cinema. It’s the same reality all over the world. And it seems like there’s no solution to this. Nobody found any in any case,” admits Patrick Roy.

To watch on video

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