Leisure One’s exit from theatrical market a devastating blow for Quebec movie trade
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Entertainment One, once a leading player in Canada’s theatrical distribution market, is ceasing film distribution operations in Canada and Spain, the company announced to staff on Tuesday – a move that also includes the wind-down of theatrical operations for eOne subsidiary Les Films Séville, one of the largest film distributors in Quebec.
While there was no word on how many staff members were affected by the decision, it has been confirmed that Les Films Séville president Patrick Roy is no longer with the company, his contract having ended this week. (Roy was not available for comment when contacted by The Globe and Mail, but told Le Journal de Montréal on Tuesday that he is “still in discussion” with eOne and hopes to be able to announce “some good news very soon.”)
In the face of challenging market realities, namely the difficulty in successfully pushing acquisition titles through the increasingly narrow theatrical distribution pipeline, eOne’s decision is not surprising, at least from the perspective of the English-language market. The company, which has offices in the United States, the UK, Spain, China and Brazil but whose television and film operations are headquartered in Toronto, has gradually been diminishing its theatrical distribution footprint in Canada since being acquired in 2019 by US toy giant Hasbro Inc. for US$4-billion.
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Whereas eOne once distributed dozens of films a year in the country – including such indie Hollywood hits as If Beale Street Could Talk, Molly’s Game, La La Land and Sicario, plus a reliable wave of Canadian cinema from such leading homegrown filmmakers as Philippe Falardeau, Xavier Dolan and Kim Nguyen – the company’s theatrical output has since slowed down to a trickle, even discounting the pandemic. Last year, the company distributed just six films theatrically, with only one English-language title, Clifford the Big Red Dog, hitting the big screen.
The news regarding Les Films Séville, though, is a more surprising and devastating blow for the Quebecois market. Founded in 1999, the Montreal-based outfit is highly regarded as a consistent purveyor of top-tier French-language cinema, delivering films from such acclaimed Quebecois directors as Denys Arcand, Ricardo Trogi, Daniel Roby and Anne Émond. Under Roy’s leadership, notable Les Films Séville success stories include the Bon Cop, Bad Cop franchise and Émile Gaudreault’s comedy Menteur, which was 2019’s highest-grossing Canadian film in any language and has just been remade in France.
On Wednesday, the Quebec Media Production Association (AQPM) released a statement lamenting the “inestimable loss” of Séville Films’ theatrical activities.
“Even if [the company] had reduced its distribution activities since eOne had been purchased by Hasbro and in the context of the pandemic, it nevertheless remained an essential reference for the distribution and promotion of the films that marked the history of Quebec cinema,” the AQPM said. “Feature film producers are losing an important partner and a talented team driven by a real love of Quebec cinema and its creators.”
Les Films Séville will continue to distribute the seven films it has already made theatrical commitments to, including Miryam Bouchard and Catherine Chabot’s dramedy Lignes de fuite, which is scheduled to open July 6; Denys Arcand’s new satirical drama Testament; and Robert Budreau’s crime drama Delia’s Gone, starring Stephan James and Marisa Tomei. It is unclear what will happen with its valuable roster of catalog titles.
Meanwhile, eOne will maintain its direct theatrical business in the United Kingdom, as well as its content licensing activities in Canada and Spain. It also will continue to operate its content development and production arms, after having reduced its film and television teams by 10 per cent in multiple territories last year.
Under Hasbro, eOne’s content portfolio – which prior to the 2019 acquisition included such internationally recognized brands as Peppa Pig and PJ Masks – includes the Transformers, Power Rangers and My Little Pony franchises.
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