Telefilm’s program spend hits $102M in 2019/20

Funding - chronis-yan-1M4wYTqVD4o-unsplash
The funder saw an overall 6% decrease in spend in its most recent fiscal year, but an increase in the number of feature films supported.

Telefilm Canada has shed light on its programming spend in the period before the COVID-19 pandemic hit through the release of its annual report.

The film funder spent $102.2 million in support of its funding programs and activities in the 2019/20 fiscal year, according to the report. That figure is a 6% decrease from the previous fiscal year, which saw $108.7 million in spending. Telefilm’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31, ending just as the COVID-19 pandemic caused major shutdowns to the industry.

Spending for its production programs also decreased for the period, dropping by 4%, with $64.4 million spent in 2019/20 compared to $67.3 million in the previous fiscal year, however the number of feature films funded increased to 89, compared to last year’s 73.

Development program spending increased by 4% with $6.7 million, compared to $6.4 million in the previous year. However, the number of projects selected decreased to 261 from last year’s 301.

Telefilm attributed the decrease in development program spending to a number of budget reductions during the fiscal year. The Talent to Watch program saw $3.8 million spent in 2019/20, down 30% from last year’s $5.5 million spend. The number of projects supported decreased to 31, compared to the previous year’s 44.

Another decline was for Telefilm’s theatrical documentary program, which was halved to $1.1 million in 2019/20, compared to $2.2 million in 2018/19. The number of projects supported also decreased to 12, compared to last year’s 23.

Promotional support remained relatively steady at $23.9 million, compared to the previous fiscal year’s $24.8 million. The largest decrease was for its marketing program, down to $7.8 million compared to $8.8 million in the previous year. The number of films also decreased to 81 from last year’s 95. However, the export assistance program saw a significant increase to $800,000 from $200,000 in the previous year, which Telefilm attributed to an increased uptick in client awareness of the program.

Telefilm noted that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a “significant impact” on its budget outlook for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Canadian box office declines and the Success Index

The annual report also shed light on the current state of the Canadian box office, which has triggered the need to modernize its Success Index, which measures the commercial, cultural and industrial performance of the projects Telefilm has financed in a given year.

While the overall Canadian box office brought in $1.01 billion in 2019 – a slight increase compared to the average pull over the last five years – independent film ticket sales decreased by 8% to the tune of $219 million, according to data from the Movie Theatre Association of Canada. Only 7.8% of indie film ticket sales were for Canadian films, which took in an estimated $17 million overall, with top performers including Menteur and La course des tuques.

Of the 799 films released to the Canadian market in 2019, 71% were independent foreign films, 18% were Canadian indie films and 11% were from Hollywood studios.

Currently the domestic box office is considered one of the Success Index’s key performance indicators and has accounted for its continued decline since the index was established in 2010. Other indicators such as success at international film festivals and foreign financing have remained steady.

“It is apparent that the weighting is currently too strongly focused on box office results and should be modernized to better reflect market realities for independent film,” wrote Telefilm in the report.

Image: Unsplash