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Will bigger movies equal more Genie viewers?
by: Feb 5, 2007 Print

Some say a successful Genie Awards broadcast is all about building buzz for Canadian films and talent. Some say it's about host and format. Some say it's the titles fighting for best picture, and the box office they tallied. But with Live! At the Genies airing Feb. 13 on CHUM stations, certainly everyone agrees they hope more Canadians tune in this year.

Last year, CHUM transformed the show from the traditional "walk-on, walk-off" format to a faster-paced production combining after-party interviews with clips from the earlier awards presentation, and drew a total of only 34,000 viewers in the Ontario, Vancouver and Calgary markets combined.

Despite these meagre returns, this year's format remains much the same. CHUM executive producer Marcia Martin says the old theater-based approach was "long and boring. One hour's long enough. We're at the post-party. People are happier and less nervous... Our team [including Larysa Harapyn, Dina Pugliese, Husein Madhavji and Liz West from Citytv and CHUM's Star! specialty] is used to live interviews. They know all the key people in the business."

She says it's always harder to pull big ratings numbers for Canada's film awards than it is for Hollywood awards shows such as the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

"But," she adds, "if you don't do it, there's never going to be an entertainment industry in Canada." All that's needed to give English-language actors and directors the star wattage common in Quebec, she says, is "promotion and exposure."

And so, what elements are needed to lure viewers to the program and keep them tuned in?

A slate of nominated films that scored big with critics and moviegoers - check; a witty ad campaign promoting Canadian film and the broadcast in multiple media - check; a primetime Tuesday slot (9 p.m. for all markets except Winnipeg, where it's at 10 p.m.) with an established lead-in on all stations - check; and a deluge of on-air promos - check.

"The films with the highest box office in English and French Canada were also among the five films nominated for best picture this year," notes Paul Gratton, VP, entertainment specialty channels at CHUM and chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, which organizes the Genies.

"The correlation between how many people have seen the films and [how many] watch the awards show also works on the Oscars," he says, pointing out that ratings rose significantly when The Lord of the Rings films were in contention for best picture.

Once again, successful films from Quebec dominate the top-prize contenders.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop broke records with more than $12 million in overall receipts, followed by Maurice Richard (nearly $5 million), Un Dimanche Ó Kigali ($1 million) and Guide de la petite vengeance (topping $500,000).

But the box office in English Canada also figures: Trailer Park Boys The Movie amassed nearly $4 million, while Gratton reckons that English prints of the bilingual Bon Cop nabbed $1.2 million outside Quebec, and The Rocket, the English version of Maurice Richard - which already has a fair chunk of English dialogue - took in around $700,000 from English prints.

Toronto Sun TV critic Bill Brioux agrees that high-profile films this year might marginally boost the awards show's audience, but adds that awards shows have generally been trending down in the ratings, and Canadian efforts suffer more when they're up against, as in the case of this year's Genies, "American epics" such as House and American Idol.

"It's a hard job," he acknowledges. "But a step in the right direction would be to get a host with some buzz and get the word out you have a host with some buzz." He notes that the Junos got a significant boost when Shania Twain emceed, and adds, "The Genies should be hosted by the Trailer Park Boys."

TPB producer Mike Volpe says he's trying to get the Boys to the Genies, but adds that they're hosting the East Coast Music Awards in Halifax - starting two days later on Feb. 15 - and might not be able to make it.

Meanwhile, as part of what Academy president Maria Topalovich calls "a new refinement" in promoting the event this year, Toronto's Zig Advertising (spearheaded by copywriter Andrew Bradley and art director Marketa Krivy) created three 30-second ads - each featuring a scene from one of Trailer Park Boys, Bon Cop or Snow Cake (up for four noms). The ads, promoting Canadian film in general as well as the awards telecast, began airing on TV and screening in 1,700 theaters across all 10 provinces on Jan. 10 and are prominent on the Genies website.

CHUM stations are cross-promoting the event, with features expected on Breakfast Television, and a heavy focus on specialty channel Star! Coverage began on Star! Daily with the nominee announcements and will include several profiles of nominees before, and on, awards night. Show producer Allen Nizi says Star! Daily "may try to do a bit more" coverage this year than last, "choosing significant stories the week before" the event.

As with last year, the 2007 Genie Awards will take place at Toronto's Carlu events venue and will air on the City stations, Star!, Bravo! and in French on MusiMax in a 90-minute edition. *

www.genieawards.ca

www.star-tv.com

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