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Measuring success beyond the box office

17 October 2016

Who watches Canadian content, where, when and how? How can Canadian stories capitalize on the potential of the digital world that has revolutionized consumer habits? Answering these questions is crucial for the Canadian industry, which wants to continue advancing, innovating and improving its strategies to reach new audiences.

In the past, a film’s success was measured solely by its domestic box-office take. Theatres are still important, since 16% of Canadians over the age of 13 see more than 12 movies a year on the big screen. Indeed, in 2015 Canadian film viewing accounted for just over 7% of the domestic independent market. But these days the market involves five screens: theatre, TV, computer, tablet and mobile device. Access to films has diversified, audiences are fragmented. Today, 81% of films are watched in the comfort of the home, either on television or, increasingly, streamed online; only 3% of films are watched on mobile devices, but this percentage will grow as technology evolves.

In this environment, tracking market trends and knowing consumer product tastes and expectations is essential. Some 20 studies funded by Telefilm and its partners since 2013 bear this out. Among other things, it is clear that instant access—the ability to quickly access a production on the platform of one’s choice—has become a key consumer requirement. And that the discoverability of Canadian films, meaning the ability to identify and thus choose homegrown content among a vast international array and on proliferating platforms, is the main challenge the industry and its partners will have to face.

At the same time, Canadian talent continues to gain recognition around the world. Canadians are applauded everywhere, as recently seen at the Oscars, and then with Xavier Dolan at Cannes and Denis Villeneuve and Philippe Falardeau at Venice. Measuring the success of Canadian cinema means taking into account this impressive cultural impact and its effect on the vitality of Canadian companies, on their ability to sell, export and coproduce excellent films and attract investors. Films like Enemy, Dr. Cabbie, The Grand Seduction, Mommy and 1987 helped boost international sales in 2015.

Each year, Telefilm’s Success Index provides a commercial (domestic and foreign sales, weighted at 60%), cultural (festival nominations and awards, 30%) and industrial (proportion of private and foreign financing, 10%) overview of the films it funds. The results serve to make informed investment decisions and also inspire new ways of doing things.

In 2015-2016, the Success Index rose by 8%. While the commercial component remained stable, private and foreign financing grew by 33% and festivals nominations and awards by 17%.

The Index is evolving. It will increasingly reflect the levels of viewing on each platform. And it could eventually include data on the impact of digital marketing and social media on the films’ success.