Do Canadians see the same movies as Americans?

I like numbers, and I like comparing and contrasting different cultures, and last summer I discovered a website that posts the weekend box-office figures for both Canada in particular and North America in general. So, naturally, I began keeping tabs on this site and noting which films appeared to be more or less popular in Canada than they were in the States.

I actually first started thinking about this around the time I read a news report to the effect that The Passion of the Christ made about 7% of its money in Canada, a country that has about 10% of the combined Canadian-American population. And since The Passion had broken The Return of the King‘s record for a five-day opening, I thought it was striking that it had made, in Canada, only half of what The Return of the King made here.

However, it wasn’t until I began reading about Fahrenheit 9/11‘s popularity in Canada that I began to scour the web for some sort of freely available Canadian box-office report. After that, I kept tabs on the weekly top tens for that year at this other site — and now I’m going to do the same here. The totals for all the films that made the Canadian top tens in 2005 will be updated here.

FWIW, a few broad patterns have presented themselves already. Films with an African-American or “urban” angle tend not to do quite so well in Canada, while films with a British or Asian angle will do better here than in the States.

Some of the most glaring examples of this have occurred in just the past few weeks: On the one hand, Diary of a Mad Black Woman opened at #1 in “North America” four weekends ago, but — despite being distributed by a Canadian-owned company! — it was not released in Canada at all until last Friday, and it still failed to make a single appearance in our top ten. On the other hand, Bride and Prejudice — a Bollywood riff on an English novel — has been in the Canadian top ten for the past four weekends, yet it has never been higher than #15 in “North America”. (An even more glaring example would be the martial arts film Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, which opened at #4 in Canada over a month ago but has never been higher than #17 in “North America”.)

So, without further ado, here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Bride and Prejudice — CDN $1,306,771 — N.AM $4,812,473 — 27.2%
Hostage — CDN $2,417,521 — N.AM $19,503,139 — 12.4%

Million Dollar Baby — CDN $9,075,366 — N.AM $89,943,692 — 10.0%
Constantine — CDN $7,018,363 — N.AM $70,382,151 — 9.9%
Hitch — CDN $14,946,875 — N.AM $159,325,368 — 9.4%
Be Cool — CDN $4,350,260 — N.AM $47,275,015 — 9.2%
Ice Princess — CDN $592,094 — N.AM $6,807,471 — 8.7%

Robots — CDN $5,408,455 — N.AM $66,067,739 — 8.2%
The Pacifier — CDN $5,328,603 — N.AM $72,270,940 — 7.4%
The Ring Two — CDN $2,338,706 — N.AM $35,065,237 — 6.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Bride and Prejudice was #10 on the Canadian chart (it was #15 in North America as a whole), while Diary of a Mad Black Woman was #9 on the North American chart.

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Anonymous

    I am guessing one of the reasons that Passion didn’t break records in Canada is that there isn’t the network of Evangelical/CCM media in place that there is in The States. Churches, radio, magazines, and TV didn’t court the church-goers at every chance to get this movie seen.

    On the flip-side, I’m guessing F911 went over fairly well is that (at least in my opinion) America/Bush bashing seems to be something of a national past-time in Canada. Anything that can be seen as an indictment of Bush, no matter how shoddy the details, will probably at least be paid attention to.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    I more or less agree. Evangelicals certainly did do their part to promote the film in Canada (see my article), but they are not as culturally influential up here as they are south of the border. And yeah, like it or not, Canadians like few things more than the sight of a boorish American making his fellow Americans look even more boorish.

    FWIW, National Post columnist Diane Francis argued a while back that average Canadians and Americans weren’t really that different from each other, but each culture was profoundly, disproportionately influenced by a particular region, and it was these particular regions in Canada and America that were pulling the cultures of their respective nations in opposite directions.

    In the States, she points out, every elected president going back to the mid-1960s has either come from the South (Johnson, Carter, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II) or has been a California Republican who appealed to the Bible Belt (Nixon, Reagan). Meanwhile, in Canada, every elected prime minister going back to the mid-1960s has come from heavily secularized Quebec (Trudeau, Mulroney, Chretien, Martin) with the single exception of Alberta’s Joe Clark, whose minority government elected in 1979 lasted less than nine months.

    I’m sure there may be other regional differences that she’s overlooked, but I found that particular example interesting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08741378159534413277 Magnus

    Everything is “more of less” with you these days. You use it everywhere, all the time – why is that? Hmm? Hmm? Would you “more or less” care to answer the question?


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