To fight piracy, we’ll cut off Canada: Fox

To judge from this Globe and Mail story, it looks like times could get tougher for freelance film critics like me, who live and work in Canada and write day-of-release reviews for American outlets:

It was the kind of letter that can ruin a guy’s day.

Late in November, Twentieth Century Fox fired off a blunt, one-page missive to Ellis Jacob, the Toronto-based chief executive of Cineplex Entertainment, Canada’s biggest cinema chain.

Bruce Snyder, Fox’s Hollywood-based president of domestic distribution, had spent the last few weeks steaming mad after his team pinpointed Canadian theatres — primarily in Montreal — as the source of illegal camcording of a steady stream of Fox blockbusters, including Borat, Eragon and Night at the Museum.

Snyder was sick of it. In the Nov. 30 letter, he warned Jacob, a friend and business associate for 20 years, to do something — or he would.

Then he threatened to do something unprecedented in Canadian distribution history: Fox could stop sending copies of all its films to Cineplex Entertainment’s 130 movie houses, with close to 1,300 screens. Or, Fox might decide to delay the Canadian release of popular films until a few weeks after their U.S. release. . . .

I’m not sure how seriously I should take this story, or rather, I’m not sure how seriously I should take Fox’s threat. Canada is part of the “domestic” market — when the box-office estimates are released every weekend, they take both American and Canadian receipts into account — and given how important those first- weekend bragging rights are, it kind of boggles the mind that any major movie studio would deliberately undermine their chances there. But we’re not that big a piece of the pie, so who knows.

Anyway, there is a lot, lot more to that news story; check it out.

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  • Plus of course that expands the potential market for pirate copies. Canadians who can’t wait (and don’t live near the border) might be tempted to watch a pirate version rather than wwait. That’s one of the main reasons why the release time between the US and the UK has narrowed in significant weeks.

    Plus, of course, if the people that record these pirate films are doing it from Canada, there’s nothing to stop them sneaking south of the border to do so, particularly when such a trip has so much lucrative potential.

  • Well, one of the points of the original story is that America has much stiffer penalties for piracy than Canada does; that’s presumably one of the reasons why so many pirated DVDs seem to come from Toronto or Montreal and not, say, from New York or Boston. Personally, as a Vancouverite, I’d be quite happy if Fox withdrew its film releases from those eastern cities but kept the rest of us in the loop.