Distrib acquires rights to Mexican hit

A correction was made to this article on Apr. 20, 2004.

Los Angeles-based marketing and distribution company Arenas Entertainment has picked up U.S. rights to Mexican hit “Nicotina.”

The dark comedy starring Diego Luna (“Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights”) won several awards last month at Mexico’s version of the Oscars, the Ariels, nabbing screenplay, actor, actress, supporting actor and editing honors.

Arenas is planning a platform release with some 100 prints in select cities by the end of May.

“A U.S. deal caps a string of sales to as many as 25 territories, which includes nearly all of Latin America and Spain,” said Monica Lozano, CEO of “Nicotina” co-producer Altavista and sister distrib Nu Vision.

While not a runaway hit on the same level as all-time local blockbuster “El crimen del Padre Amaro” ($16 million), “Nicotina” racked up enough B.O. coin to become the second biggest local pic of 2003, admittedly a lackluster year for Mexican cinema. Romantic comedy “Ladies Night,” which debuted December 12, was the highest grossing local pic of 2003. The first Mexican production by Disney Latino label Miravista grossed $4.53 million by December 31, outpacing “Nicotina’s ” final cume of $4.45 million by $80,000.

“Nicotina” follows a computer hacker (Luna) whose attempts to spoil the romantic trysts of a pretty neighbor spiral out of control.

Producers of the Mexican-Spanish co-production led by Cacerola Films included Televisa film arm Videocine, Altavista and Spain’s Oberon and Arca.

Arenas acquired Colombia’s “Como el gato y el raton” (A Game of Cat and Mouse) by Rodrigo Triana last year but has yet to release it.

Spain’s Manga Films is poised to release Arenas/Myriad co-production “Imagining Argentina” in Spain on April 16. Arenas holds the U.S. distribution rights to the drama starring Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson. Directed by Christopher Hampton, it was panned at the 2003 Venice Film Festival, where it had its worldwide debut and competed for the Golden Lion.

“Nicotina” would be Arenas’ first attempt to distribute on its own after its split with Universal Pictures last year.

In late 2001, Universal teamed with the Arenas Group, an advertising, PR and talent management firm specializing in the U.S. Latino market, to form film label Arenas Entertainment. Idea for the latter was to acquire, produce, finance, market and distribute films for Hispanic audiences worldwide.

Discord between the partners over various issues brought about the rupture.

A third partner in Arenas Entertainment, Spanish venture capital group Marco Polo Investments, remains an equity investor. Arenas is searching for more investors.

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