MEXICO CITY — Hollywood appears to have won its battle with the Mexican film industry to have foreign pics dubbed into Spanish.
By majority decision, the Mexican Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the eighth article of Mexico’s Federal Film Law, which made subtitles mandatory on all foreign language pics except children’s and educational movies.
The ruling marks the end of a joint suit mounted by United Intl. Pictures, Buena Vista, Colombia TriStar and 20th Century Fox and can be reversed only by new legislation.
The Hollywood majors have long claimed the statute discriminated against the estimated 20 million illiterate Mexicans as well as the elderly and those with poor vision.
Taking on TV
They also wanted an even playing field with terrestrial television, which has been dubbing foreign movies for years.
“All we are trying to do is take these movies to new markets, a new public who up to now have been unable to fully enjoy the cinema,” Eduardo Echeverria, local general manger for 20th Century Fox, told Daily Variety.
Exhibitors greeted the news with delight. Organizacion Ramirez, Mexico’s largest chain with 738 screens, said it now expected to show most foreign films in dubbed versions, especially outside major cities.
Co-director Alejandro Ramirez predicted receipts would increase by an average of 15%, although blockbusters would reap a disproportionate windfall.
But local industryites — already concerned about Hollywood’s dominance, with an estimated 55% of last year’s national box office of $397 million — were left fearful.
Vowing to overturn the ruling, Javier Corral, opposition president of the Mexican Congress’ Radio, TV and Film Commission, attacked it as an “assault on our cultural and economic sovereignty.
“This court has allowed itself to be pressured into taking an anti-national position by the government and international financial interests,” Corral told Daily Variety.