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Los Angeles new base for Latin partners

Duteil to o'see day-to-day operations of Cuaron/Vergara venture

VENICE — Director Alfonso Cuaron and entrepreneur-turned-producer Jorge Vergara will extend their relationship with a Los Angeles-based company to develop, produce and finance U.S. feature films.

The duo’s most recent collaboration, the Mexican box office hit “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (And Your Mother Too), had its international premiere Thursday in the official competition at the Venice Intl. Film Festival.

Plans were outlined by Cuaron and Vergara for the as-yet-unnamed company at the fest.

Cuaron and Vergara already are partnered in Mexican production outfit Anhelo Producciones, which co-produced “Mama” and Guillermo Del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone.”

While that operation will continue to serve Latin America and Spain and focus on Spanish-language films, the LA company will concentrate on English-language product. However, the principals do not exclude taking on Asian or European pics.

“This will be a streamlined, low-overhead company with a quick decision-making process and very flexible business plan, allowing us to make as many or as few features each year as we feel is right, depending on the kind of projects that come along,” Cuaron told Daily Variety.

The director, who made “A Little Princess” and “Great Expectations” in Hollywood before returning to Mexico for “Mama,” said the company will secure and develop his projects on a nonexclusive basis, in addition to fostering films for other directors. Cuaron plans to continue working between Mexico and the U.S., where his unannounced next project will be made. He also is considering doing a film in India.

“I have to take it film by film,” Cuaron said. “This new operation, together with our Mexican company, allows me to do just that; putting together films in the U.S., Mexico, Europe or even Asia and possibly getting involved as a producer in other filmmakers’ work.”

Duteil in charge

Arnaud Duteil, who shares greenlighting power with Cuaron and Vergara, will oversee day-to-day operations. A former Canal Plus exec based in L.A. for the past eight years, Duteil has been involved in the Gallic company’s acquisition and production of U.S. features, including Larry Clark’s “Bully,” also screening in the Venice competition.

“Our aim is to create a filmmaker-friendly environment, which basically means we think one person is responsible for getting the movie on the screen,” Duteil said.

Principal financing for the company’s projects will come from Vergara’s Guadalajara-based nutritional product group, Omnilife, which distributes throughout Latin America, Spain and the U.S. and last year posted revenues of $650 million.

A formal announcement is expected to be made during the New York Film Festival with the new company’s name, key executive appointments and initial projects.

“Mama” made $12 million in Mexico, making it the top-grossing national production in domestic B.O. history.

Sold by Good Machine Intl. to every major territory except the U.K. and Australia, “Mama” segues from Venice to the Toronto and New York fests and will open in the U.S. through IFC in March.

Good Machine Intl. president David Linde, who was exec producer on the pic, will handle international distribution of titles produced through the new venture. Domestically, the principals are looking to establish a privileged arrangement with a U.S. distrib.

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