QUEBEC - The American film industry will be called to testify before a Quebec legislative committee next fall to explain why more Hollywood films aren't dubbed into French in the province.
A committee studying the issue says it wants to hear from members of the Motion Picture Association, which represents the U.S. film industry internationally.
Quebec's opposition parties have been pushing the minority Liberal government to adopt a law forcing the major studios to dub their films in Quebec.
"We will ask the studios to explain to us how we can ensure, without resorting to a law, that Quebec citizens have access to versions dubbed into French in Quebec," said Pierre Curzi, the Parti Quebecois culture critic and a former actor.
"The (studios) don't want a law to avoid other countries adopting similar legislation," Curzi added. "That's legitimate, but us, we want cultural products adapted to our wishes."
Mario Dumont, leader of the opposition Action democratique du Quebec, began calling for a law last year. Dumont said he realized one was needed after his children were unable to understand the Parisian dialect used in the French version of Shrek the Third.
The ADQ proposed legislation that would have forced studios such as Paramount, Warner and Universal to invest $75,000 per film in order to finance their dubbing in Quebec.
Quebec Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre opted instead to negotiate with the big studios. She said 78 per cent of the movies in Quebec theatres last year were dubbed in the province, up from 72 per cent in 2006.
She attributed the increase to a series of incentives offered to the studios, which include a 30 per cent tax credit.
The ADQ nevertheless claims it was their bill that pushed the government to court the studios more aggressively.
"We saw improvements within the context of a law that would have forced their hand," said the ADQ's culture critic, Francois Benjamin. "But as soon as we stop talking about a law, it will regress."
In Curzi's opinion, the Quebec government shouldn't rely on the good will of American studios, given that DVD and online markets are rapidly growing in popularity.
"If we don't have a law, what will we do for DVDs," said Curzi, who accused the government of ignoring important market trends.
Quebec's Department of Culture indicates as many as 94 per cent of movie DVDs sold in Quebec have the option of either the dubbed version or French sub-titles.
However, no similar figures are available for television shows on DVD.
The legislative committee said through a news release that it will examine both the economic and cultural issues at stake.
"It is justified to look to better understand the current situation and its implications," the committee's chair and vice-chair said in a joint statement.
The dubbing industry in Quebec is estimated to be worth about $20 million annually, providing some 700 jobs.