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Exhib dips into feature funding biz

Telenovelas company will produce

MEXICO CITY — Grupo Cinemex, Mexico’s second-largest exhibitor, is dipping a toe into the production game. The chain has signed on to put up about 10% of the as-yet undetermined costs for upcoming “Nocturno Chilango” (Mexico City Night).

“We wanted to do something beyond our work as an exhibitor,” says Alma Rosa Garcia, director of programming for Cinemex, who says the investment is a test run for possible future projects. “We want to contribute to Mexican cinema,” says Garcia.

Pic is set to start filming Jan. 19 in Mexico City and is co-produced by distrib Videocine and Argos Producciones. Argos, which largely produces telenovelas, also produced 1999 feature “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas” (Sex, Pride and Tears), which was at the time the top Mexican box office grosser.

“Nocturno Chilango” has been in the works for several years. Script is penned by Vicente Lenero, who wrote “El Crimen de Padre Amaro” (The Crime of Father Amaro) and tells three intertwined stories, focusing on two Mexico City brothers.

Javier Patron, who has worked in telenovelas, makes his feature film directing bow. Sources close to the production say it’s expected to cost below $2 million, of which more than $600,000 has already been committed by Mexico’s Fund for Investment and Stimulus in Cinema (Fidecine), a government org founded in 2001.

“Nocturno Chilango” is one of 10 projects funded by Fidecine. Casting is in process, but Cinemex says it’s confirmed the participation of thesps Demian Bichir, Rafael Inclan, Isela Vega, Armando Hernandez and Ricardo Bloom.

Cinemex, founded in 1995 by three Harvard Business School graduates, is making its first foray into film financing. The exhib has 35 theaters in Mexico, the majority of them in Mexico City. In June of last year, it was bought by Canadian exhib Onex Corp. and U.S. chain operator Oaktree Capital Management for $295 million.

Despite the unusual alliance between a distrib and an exhibitor, “Nocturno Chilango” will be distributed like any other film, Garcia says.

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