05/22/2014 08:52 EDT

Corner Gas Movie Gets 75% Of Funding From Taxpayers: Report


The producers of Corner Gas: The Movie generated a lot of buzz by launching a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the film. In a sign of just how popular the Saskatchewan-filmed sitcom remains five years after its final episode, the campaign raised $100,000 in one day.

But that pales in comparison to what taxpayers will be kicking in. According to government documents obtained by the National Post, some 75 per cent of the film’s $8.5-million budget will come from government sources.

That includes some $2 million from Saskatchewan and a $2.5 million grant from Telefilm Canada, as well as tax credits worth $800,000 from the Ontario government and $350,000 more in federal tax credits.

According to the CBC, film crews from both Saskatchewan and Ontario will work on the movie.

It turns out the Kickstarter campaign was just a promotional tool, meant to raise money for rewards for backers of the movie.

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The film’s executive producer, Virginia Thompson, points out that there’s nothing unusual in the movie’s funding model -- pretty much all Canadian films that get off the ground do so with government help.

“This project wouldn’t have happened without the support of the province, so we’re thrilled the province came to bat,” she told the National Post.

The government funding comes despite Corner Gas’ status as one of the most commercially successful TV shows in Canadian history. The show typically beat higher-budget U.S. offerings in its time slot and its final episode in April 2009, drew more than three million viewers -- a significant achievement given the size of Canada’s TV audience.

But advocates of Canadian filmmaking have long argued that commercial success in Canada isn’t enough for a film or TV show to be funded through market forces alone. The Canadian market is too small (and fragmented between two languages), the competition from the U.S. too heavy, and the public too indifferent to Canadian films for the industry to survive on its own, they argue.

Governments across Canada see filmmaking as a generator of economic activity, and have poured millions into tax credits and other forms of subsidy to attract film crews. Little data exists to show that the economic activity created by movies is worth the cost to taxpayers, but few doubt that, without government help, far fewer movies would be filmed in Canada.

Interestingly, Saskatchewan actually got out of that game two years ago, with the government of Premier Brad Wall cancelling the province’s film tax credit. That prompted Verite Films, the production company behind Corner Gas, to relocate from Regina to Toronto.

But Saskatchewan has found a way around that in order to fund Corner Gas -- of the $2 million or so it will give the movie, nearly $1.5 million comes from Tourism Saskatchewan.

The argument is that filming Corner Gas: The Movie will raise Saskatchewan’s profile and attract tourists.

Not all of the film’s funding comes from taxpayers; among other sources, Bell Media is kicking in $1.6 million for distribution rights and Movie Central is paying $125,000 for TV rights.

Filming on Corner Gas: The Movie begins June 23 in Rouleau, Sask., the town known to fans of the show as Dog River.