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Film | by Shane “Stream And Stream Again” Hnetka

A couple of columns ago, I wrote about Cineplex raising ticket prices. In a leaked internal memo, the theatre chain said its costs increased after minimum wage hikes in several provinces, including Alberta and Ontario. The memo said this fact was a “key internal message”. I thought it was a tacky attempt to shift customer anger from Cineplex to its employees, 90 per cent of whom are paid the lowest wage that’s legal. I was not impressed.

Well, Cineplex has released their third quarter earnings and guess what? They’re up 21 per cent. Despite a summertime string of box-office bombs (Ben-Hur, Ice Age: Collision Course), people still paid to go theatres.

I love movies and have no problem with Cineplex making a profit, but blaming minimum wage increases for ticket hikes isn’t cool. It’s not smart, either, because when wages go up, more people can afford to go to movies. Duh.

SHOMI NO MORE

A couple of years ago, three of Canada’s biggest cable providers  entered the streaming business. Shaw and Rogers created Shomi, while Bell created CraveTV. Strangely, they were only available to cable service subscribers — sort of missing the point in the age of Netflix.

Shomi finally let anyone subscribe last year, while CraveTV opened up to cord-cutters at the beginning of this year. Then last month, Rogers and Shaw announced Shomi would shut down at the end of November.

What?

Shomi had 900,000 subscribers while CraveTV just hit the million mark, so I’m guessing the demand is there, even though Rogers and Shaw claim Shomi lost money. Is this just the case of companies used to easy profits being unwilling to innovate? CRTC head Jean-Pierre Blais seems to think so. “I have to wonder if they are too used to receiving rents from subscribers every month in a protected ecosystem, rather than rolling up their sleeves in order to build a business without regulatory intervention and protection,” Blais said at an Ottawa communications conference. Yup.

SWIMMING UPSTREAM

With Shomi gone, that leaves Canadians with Netflix, Crave, Crackle, iTunes, Google Play, Playstation, Fandor, Mubi, Shudder and a few more streaming options. If you want to watch TV shows, you’re good. Anyone who wants more than Hollywood blockbusters faces an uphill — make that upstream — battle, though. Looking for someone like Werner Herzog, Hal Hartley or Wim Wenders? You’ll have to do a bit of digging.

But all is not lost. Next column I’m going to focus on a couple of services that are off the beaten path. They’re not as cool as say Criterion and TCM’s brand new Filmstruck (only available in the U.S.), but still pretty good. See you in two weeks.

Shane Hnetka might be Saskatchewan’s biggest film and comic book nerd. Read his weekly Sunday Matinee column at prairiedogmag.com.