U.S. distribs fanning flames

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s film biz has bounced back and is staking its claim anew. Last year, 24 Brazilian pics were released, grossing $17.4 million, compared with 25 pics, $11.9 million, in 1999.

Led by Xuxa Meneghel starrer “Xuxa Requebra” and Globo Filmes’ “O Auto da Compadecida” (The Dog’s Will), the local pics sold 7.2 million tickets, an increase of 26% over 1999, and representing 10% of all admissions (vs. an 8.5% share in 1999).

The overall film market saw admissions rise just 7% and B.O. grew 13% last year. The fact that more Brazilians are going to local pics has attracted the interest of the U.S. studios.

“All the majors have Brazilian pics in their distribution portfolios,” says Leonardo Monteiro de Barros, a partner in local company Conspiracao, which inked a multipic co-production-distrib deal last year with Warners.

Columbia TriStar has teamed with Globo Filmes for four theatrical features and eight telepics over two years. Since 1995, it has invested $21 million in 14 local pics, according to Iona Macedo, Columbia’s vice president for Latin American production.

In addition, Fox and Total Filmes signed a distrib deal, which eventually may evolve into co-productions.

“We are still not talking about output deals … but it is definitely a step ahead,” says Rodrigo Saturnino Braga, general director for Brazil for the Columbia TriStar and Buena Vista joint-distrib operation.

Brazil’s film subsidy laws enable U.S. studios — and most any private-sector company — to take part of the monies they would otherwise pay in local taxes and redirect it to production.

In order to bolster the local film industry even more, a public-private commission was charged with crafting a strategy. Its final report in February called for creating a government regulatory agency, a production-distribution-exhibition fund and a broader subsidy system.

“We expect Brazilian films to eventually have a 30% to 35% market share, as they used to have in the 1980s,” says vet producer Luiz Carlos Barreto.

The commission’s plans would take years to have any real impact, however, because most of the proposals must be approved first by Brazil’s notoriously slow Congress.

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