U.S. majors samba to tax-break beat

Co-productions help increse number of local films

RIO DE JANEIRO — Fueled by coin from U.S. majors, local film production in Brazil is on an upswing, and ticket sales for Brazilian pics are expected to reach levels not seen in 13 years.

Last year, 30 local pics sold a total of 7.3 million tickets. In 2003, as many as 40 Brazilian productions may reach the bigscreen, and industryites predict admissions will hit 10 million.

Local filmmakers have been struggling since 1990, when the government shuttered its film production/distrib company Embrafilmes. In 1989, Embrafilmes’ last year of operation, Brazilian films sold 20 million tickets, or 18% of all ducats sold.

With the loss of that critical state support, local production fell dramatically as well, but new tax laws have prompted the U.S. majors to get more involved in local production.

In the mid-1990s, Brazil unveiled a tax-credit system under which corporations could direct part of their tax bill to local film productions. However, of the studios, Columbia TriStar was the only one to co-produce with any regularity.

But last year, the government introduced a new 11% tax on remittances by the majors — while giving them the option to funnel those monies into local production.

“Fox, Warners, Columbia, and now UIP are increasingly co-producing through the tax-shelter laws — our company is greatly benefiting from this trend,” Diler Trindade, president of Diler & Associados, tells Variety.

Diler is co-producing Paulo Aragao’s “Didi, the Goofy Cupid” with Columbia (set to open in July), and two projects with Warners.

New to the scene is United Intl. Pictures, which represents and distributes Universal, Paramount and DreamWorks pics in Brazil.

“We have not made a decision to invest regularly, but we identified a good project and decided to co-produce it,” says Jorge Peregrino, UIP’s VP for Latin America.

The pic is vet helmer Anibal Massani’s “Pele the Myth.” The $1.6 million docudrama about the life of soccer legend Pele will open in Brazil in December and internationally in 2004.

Other co-productions in the works include:

  • Jose Emilio Rondeau’s romantic comedy “1972,” which BVI is prepping for an April release. Pic is joint venture of Disney via Miravista and Telefonica’s Admira subsid.

  • “God Is Brazilian,” latest film from Carlos Diegues (“Bye Bye Brasil,” “Orfeu”), which bowed Jan. 31. Rio Vermelho co-produced with Columbia, which is also distributing, and Globo Filmes.

  • Hector Babenco’s hard-hitting “Carandiru,” a prison drama Columbia co-produced and will distribute. Pic by the helmer of “The Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Ironweed” bows here April 14, and Sony Classics will distribute it internationally.

  • Claudio Torres’ “Redeemer” and frosh helmer Lula Buarque de Holanda’s “Casseta & Planeta Go to the Oscars,” two comedies being co-produced and distribbed by Warners with local production company Conspiracao.

  • “Xuxa and Dwarves 3,” from Warners in association with Diler’s Xuxa franchise, opening in December.

  • Guel Arraes’ “Lisbela and the Prisoner,” lead-produced by Natasha Filmes, with Fox launching it in April.

  • Debut film of Flavia Moraes, “Acquaria,” with Fox and Spectra Media eyeing a June release.
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