Out of the countless industries to take a TKO hit this year, one particularly close to my heart is the film industry. Chris Nolan might have deluded himself into believing his new film Tenet will reopen the theatre industry this summer (and that, if it does, people will actually show up) but I’m less optimistic. As someone who normally loves the theatre experience—the big screen, the excitement, the popcorn—the last thing I want to do in the midst of a pandemic is sit in an enclosed room full of strangers for two hours. Even if theatres employ social distancing measures and only partially fill the rooms, the best result is still drastically reduced ticket sales. I’m no business major, but for Tenet to make back its $200 million budget in 2020…it’s just not realistic. Even with the push toward drive-in showings this summer, there are only so many drive-in options and not everybody has a car.
But if even a guaranteed blockbuster from the creator of Inception and The Dark Knight struggles to make bank, what does that mean for smaller releases? The Canadian film industry is precarious on a good day; historically dominated by the US, Canadian filmmakers have always struggled to carve out a space for themselves in their own backyard. And when I say always, I mean always: back in 1930, at the beginning of what we understand Hollywood to be, Maclean’s called the American film industry “a movie Mussolini” (a fantastically extra description) in an article on “the ‘screen war’ which has resulted in virtual domination of the Canadian motion picture field by a gigantic United States corporation.” The culture was already set: audiences were drawn to the higher-budget, flashier productions from south of the border.
Cut to today, and this same mindset exists. It’s funny, because plenty of films and TV shows are filmed in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver—our little Hollywood Norths. Toronto is well known as a hotbed of filming, always dressed up as Chicago or Baltimore or some equivalent American city. Vancouver is Netflix and CW heaven: Riverdale, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The 100, Charmed, The Flash, and Supernatural are all filmed there (and that’s only a sample). But, being American productions, none of these shows or movies take place in Canada. Even our brilliant hometown success story, Schitt’s Creek, is careful not to mention its Ontario locale, despite very obviously being set here (the motel is in Orangeville), lest it scare off American viewers.