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Azteca takes on toon pirates

Local pic beat 'Castle,' 'Bears' at B.O.

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s No.2 net TV Azteca is mounting its first film distribution venture in partnership with leading exhib Cinepolis to release 3D toon “Pirates en el Pacifico (Pirates in the Pacific) and net also plans to bring film to the U.S. this fall.

Showing on 100 screens, film grossed nearly $260,000 in its first weekend, beating openings of Japanese animated pic “Howl’s Moving Castle” and family pics “Because of Winn-Dixie” and “The Bad News Bears.”

TV Azteca exec Javier Arnau says pic is exceeding expectations. Net projects the Mexico run will near $2 million in box office.

Produced by Peruvian film company AlpaMayo Entertainment for around $530,000, pic is first 3D animated feature produced in Latin America. Mexico is the pic’s largest run yet. In Lima, it debuted with only 35 copies, in Bolivia, with six.

Arnau said TV Azteca will distribute another AplaMayo production, “Dragones” (Dragons) next year and also will begin shopping around for other projects. “There are a lot of independent films that need a push,” Arnau says.

TV Aztecas’ larger rival Televisa has its own film distribution and production divison, Videocine.

TV Azteca also secured distribution rights for the Spanish-lingo film in the United States where U.S. station Azteca America will act as distributor and advertise the film, Arnau says. A region-by-region rollout will begin in Los Angeles in October.

Arnau said TV Azteca had taken a cautious path for their first effort, seeking out an exclusive exhibition agreement with Cinepolis and only releasing 100 copies.

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