What Telefilm polling reveals about how Canadians watch movies

"Public awareness of homegrown movies leaves much to be desired," survey results show, as, excluding Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, most Canadians could not recall the last homegrown movie they viewed.
trailer park boys

Recent Telefilm Canada polling of movie viewers countrywide shows marketing a film as Canadian hardly matters.

Nor is mentioning a director’s name required.

Above all else, Canadians just want to see a good film.

“Not surprisingly, the number one driver of choice is genre,” Dave Forget, director of business affairs and certfication at Telefilm Canada, told Playback on Tuesday.

Ottawa’s film financier last March surveyed 1800 Canadians on their movie-watching habits, and how they perceive Canada’s film industry, to give indie filmmakers a better idea on who to target, and how.

The results are mostly predictable in showing Canadians prefer Hollywood over local films and are watching more movies overall as Netflix Canada and other digital platforms bring them the benefits of Internet connectedness.

But the Telefilm’s snapshot of average Canadians, rather than indie producers facing the ups and downs of targeting a fast-changing market, did surprise by indicating most respondents failed to recall the last Canadian movie they watched.

“Public awareness of homegrown movies leaves much to be desired,” the survey stated, in part because indie distributors spend little coin to promote Canadian film releases, leaving them largely unrecognized by consumers.

“One exception: Trailer Park Boys: The Movie with an awareness rate of 72%, which puts it third place behind The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Blades of Glory (respectively 82% and 73%),” the survey reported.

That shout-out to Trailer Park Boys also underlines Telefilm’s poll results indicating comedy is the top genre attracting Canadians as they select a movie to view, whether at the multiplex, in their home and increasingly on their mobile phones.

The second most-preferred genre is action/adventure, and the third drama, which traditionally has been the genre most embraced by Canadian filmmakers.

And beyond a film’s subject matter and cast, Telefilm’s polling also found positive reviews and word of mouth also move Canadians to see one film over another.

Conversely, critical awards, a film’s director and origins, especially whether it is Canadian or Quebecois, are further down the ranking when it comes to swaying Canadian consumers.

“It is surprising to find that the country of origin, the fact that it is a Canadian or Quebec movie, the screenwriter or the director and even the awards won carry little weight,” the study concluded.

If anything, Canadians polled said box office performers like The Whistleblower, Splice, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Eastern Promises and Goon were largely regarded as American movies, and not Canadian.

“And despite enjoying good media coverage at the time of the survey, War Witch was correctly identified by only 38% of Francophone Quebecers and 40% of Anglophone Canadians,” the survey revealed about the Quebec film that swept the film categories at the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards.

That said, the Telefilm polling revealed no negative pall hanging over the Canadian film industry, just that it mostly goes unheralded in the marketplace.

“It’s not that there’s a stigma, or a negative to being Canadian,” Forget reported of this country’s film output, as genre and cast win out as Canadian movie watching is conditioned by word of mouth, especially from friends and family, and what TV commercials and magazine shows like Entertainment Tonight and etalk recommend.

The upshot for indie filmmakers is identify who your audience is before producing a film, and consider throwing a chuckler into the mix.

“It’s less about where it’s from, and more about is it quality and is it intriguing,” Forget insisted.

The Ad Hoc Research poll surveyed 1800 Canadians between March 11 and 19, 2013, via the internet and the results have a margin of error of 2.31%.