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Conate tops Chilean distrib’n

While “The Lion King” drew the largest Chilean filmgoing crowd since “Jaws” in 1976, the real monarch of the local film jungle last year was the multifaceted firm Conate.

Owned and run by Jose Daire and family, the company is the top force in exhibition and distribution, while the once major distribs have in comparison become minors.

Conate handles Disney in Chile, where in addition to the 26.5% share of the market it reaped on behalf of the Mouse House, Conate scored another 11.6% for indie product. No. 2 distribbery UIP – handling Universal, Paramount and MGM – was 14 points behind.

In addition to Conate’s 38% distribution tally, its clout as an exhibitor is considerable. Having divided up seven of its theaters into duplexes and triplexes and purpose-built another duplex, the 30-year-old exhib virtually monopolizes the field with 31 of Santiago’s 51 firstrun screens.

Last year these garnered 93% of firstrun and second-run B.O. in the capital city, which accounts for about two-thirds of Chilean billings.

The company is fortified by its joint venture with Dallas-based Cinemark in a six-plex that accounts for 16% of Santiago spectators. Conate subsid Orcinor operates another six theaters in the northern part of the country.

Conate has been accused of monopolistic practices, but to date only its video operations have been investigated (with the conclusion that they did not represent a monopolistic threat). The firm has a stake in leading distribbery Video Chile – the rep for most U.S. majors – and also in the two leading retail chains – Errol’s and the Blockbuster franchise.

Trustbusters have ignored Conate’s theatrical operations not because of any cozy relationship between the Daires and the government, but probably be cause of fragmentation of the company’s power base. For instance, Conate’s venture with Cinemark is a separate company. Another seven screens, forming the old Compania Cinematografica Nacional (CCN) circuit, belong to the Banco de Chile Pension Fund; however, since late 1993, when the CCN sailed into serious financial straits, Conate has operated the circuit.

But Conate’s dominance as an exhibber soon could be challenged. Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements is planning to enter Chile with three 10-plexes, one in upscale Parque Arauco – one of Santiago’s top malls – and the others in populous middle-class districts. A spokesman for National Amusements declined to comment on the plans, suggesting the deal may not be finalized.

Meanwhile Conate’s plans for 1995 include dividing two more single-screen theaters into four-plexes and inaugurating a six-plex in Concepcion, Chile’s third-largest city, in association with Cinemark.

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