Arau's pic comes up short against 'Amaro'

MEXICO CITY — The producers of big-budget biopic “Zapata” are banking on landing a lucrative U.S. distrib deal to get into the black after underwhelming at Mexican plexes since its bow Friday.

“Zapata: El sueno del heroe” (Zapata: The Hero’s Dream) brought in 14 million pesos ($1.2 million), still enough to put it in first place nationwide for the weekend.

But the $10 million pic, helmed by Alfonso Arau, came up far short in comparison with the top-grossing Mexican film, “The Crime of Father Amaro.” That bowed in August 2002 and brought in a whopping 31.1 million pesos ($3.1 million). The gap is even more significant considering the size of the two pics’ respective bows. “Amaro” opened on 400 screens; “Zapata,” distributed by Videocine, launched on 650.

Despite the disappointment, “Zapata” notched up the highest weekend total since the second week of April, when “50 First Dates” brought in $1.6 million. Arau, who directed 1992 hit “Like Water for Chocolate,” is working on gaining U.S. distribution for the new pic, denying that “Zapata” already had a deal with Televisa Cine.

Helmer also said he will begin work on a director’s cut of “Zapata” for DVD, which will be 3 hours and 10 minutes long, over an hour longer than the 118 minute theatrical release.

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