“Theatres are a perfect platform for movies. The problem is the content.” Businessman Vincenzo Guzzo is known for not holding back his opinions. The things he has said in the media, such as when he was on popular show Tout le monde en parle, have generated considerable commentary. During his talk at the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, he once again rattled the cage of the Quebec movie industry. However, he said that he keeps a critical eye on local films because he wants Quebec products to be successful at the box office.
Here are three takeaways from his talk at the Chamber.
Movie theatres are doing well
According to Mr. Guzzo, who launched his company with his father in 1974, the movie theatre business is as healthy as ever. The businessman said that movie audiences have increased by 20% thanks to international hits like It and Leap! and Quebec films such as Junior majeur, De père en flic 2 and Bon cop, bad cop 2.
He said that Netflix isn’t taking away from his business any more than other types of entertainment are, such as the Montréal Canadiens or summer festivals. “Netflix is not my competitor. They’re the ones who show my old movies,” he said in his colourful style.
Yes to Quebec films
Nothing pleases Vincenzo Guzzo more than seeing a local film have box office success. When a Quebec product works, this helps movie theatres, he said. Although his previous severe criticism of Quebec movies and their funding earned him the reputation as an enemy of the local industry, he says that this isn't true. “It’s easy to be cast as the villain when your name is Guzzo. But what’s controversial is the truth—not what I said,” he explained during his talk.
In the past, he has argued that not enough “commercial” films were being funded by public bodies. He also reminded everyone that his ten theatres show Quebec auteur movies alongside blockbusters, but that even a lot of American films among the hundreds produced each year don’t always make it to his movie chain. He said his goal is to screen all films but that some distributors don’t give his company access to some movies because they target specific theatres.
Deal between Netflix and the federal government
Mr. Guzzo is against the agreement between Netflix and the federal government, and he doesn’t think the goal is to help Canadian taxpayers and consumers indirectly avoid paying higher taxes through Netflix. “I could also sell tickets online from Ireland and argue that my service is overseas so that I don't have to collect GST and QST.”
Unlike others who have expressed their opinion on this topic, he refuses to cast blame on Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, who he says is “stuck between a rock and a hard place.” He says that Prime Minister Trudeau is the one who has to explain the deal, which should not be so favourable for an international company with no ties to the country.