Quebec English-language production hit new low in 2015/16: report

Theatrical production volatility and steady decreases in TV production have contributed to the declines, according to a new report from the Quebec English-language Production Council.

Production spending on English-language content in Quebec declined to its lowest-ever level in 2015/16, according to a new report released by the Quebec English-language Production Council (QEPC).

Overall, English-language film and TV production in the province fell to $127 million for 2015/16, a 38% decline from the $206 million posted the year prior. The “Canadian Regional Audiovisual Production Report” attributes the decline to volatility of theatrical production and steady decreases in TV production and argues that without regulatory intervention, minority-language production in the province will continue to decrease. It was produced by QEPC, with the participation of the CMPA and the financial support of the CMF, Department of Canadian Heritage, Telefilm, NFB, ACTRA Montreal and le Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec. The Association québécoise de la production médiatique (AQPM) did not provide a comment as of press time.

On the film side, English-language theatrical production dropped to a 20-year low of $18 million in 2015/16, from $104 million in 2014/15 and $109 million the year before that. The total spending on English-language domestic titles has fluctuated significantly over the past nine years in Quebec, with the province posting a record of $132 million in 2009/10, before falling to $20 million in 2010/11, $35 million in 2011/12 and $26 million in 2012/13. The report also said that five English-language features filmed in the province during 2015/16, compared with 14 the year before and 13 in 2013/14.

On the TV side, English-language production showed a slight year-over-year increase, climbing to $110 million in 2015/16, from $102 million a year before. However, the report noted that English-language TV production has been in overall decline since it peaked at $184 million in 2006/07.

“This decline has resulted in the loss of TV talent to Toronto, Vancouver, and Los Angeles,” said a press release accompanying the report, which also indicated that Quebec is the only province that has seen a decline in the amount of English-language domestic production over the past 20 years. In 1996/97, the province’s English-language TV production total was $201 million and later peaked at $306 million in 1999/2000.

The provincial tax credit may also be having a detrimental impact on English-language production, according to the report. “This credit is designed to support French-language production with a higher effective tax rate than that available to productions in other languages. Therefore, English-language Quebec production has a lower, and less competitive, tax credit rate compared to other provinces. Quebec is the only province that has such a language-based tax credit, which puts English domestic production at a competitive disadvantage compared to other provinces, especially Ontario, Manitoba, or B.C.” The Quebec tax credit is 32% of eligible labour costs, with an 8% bonus for French-language projects.

“To  sum  up,  we  believe  the  two-tier  tax  credit  in  Quebec,  which  disadvantages  English-language  Quebec  production,  is  an  important  factor  in  the  continuing  decline  of  Quebec [official language minority community] production,” said the report.

While the report indicated overall declines for English-language production in Quebec, it did note that CMF-funded TV production has increased in the province from $42 million to $61 million over four years, including projects such as 19-2 (Bravo), Mohawk Girls (APTN) and Bellevue (CBC). This gain was offset by non-CMF TV production, which dropped by 42% from $85 million to $49 million.

“We can see that Quebec has moved from a region with mostly non-CMF TV, like Ontario and B.C., to a region with mostly CMF TV, like Atlantic Canada and the Prairies. Without the benefit of CMF-funded TV, English Quebec production would have seen a catastrophic drop because of the volatility of theatrical production, and the sharp decline of non-CMF TV,” said the report.

In particular, the report said production stimulated by the CMF’s Anglophone Minority Incentive (AMI) fund, established in 2013, had helped slow the declines in production spending on English-language content. In 2015/16, projects funded through the AMI fund accounted for 24 hours of production, while broadcasters’ performance envelope spending hit $18.7 million for 2015/16, up from $12.7 million the previous year.

“These trends demonstrate that with a strong regulatory regime, English-language production can thrive in Montreal. Without strong measures such as the CRTC’s Canadian content quota and the CMF’s Anglophone Minority Incentive fund, Quebec’s official language minority production will continue to decline,” said Kirwan Cox, executive director, QEPC, in a release.

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