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Brazil forecasts B.O. downturn

Almeida estimates attendance could drop up to 15%

RIO DE JANIERO — Brazil’s total attendance and B.O. fell sharply in January and February, and analysts and execs believe the result is an indication the local film market will decline in 2005 for the first time in eight years. The Jan.-Feb. 2005 B.O. totaled 112.8 million reais ($42.7 million), down 16% in relation to Jan-Feb 2004.

Paulo Sergio Almeida, president of research film firm Filme B, estimates the country’s total attendance could drop up to 15% this year, in relation to the 116 million registered in 2004.

“There is a lack of good films this year. The market is concerned,” Almeida says.

The local film market has grown for eight consecutive years, pushed by the expansion of the exhibition sector. But despite the expected 152 screen openings in 2005 (on top of the existing 1,988 screens at year-end 2004), a lack of good product could drag the market down.

Analysts worry that upcoming foreign films won’t perform as well as did “Spider-Man 2” (7.7 million tickets) and “The Passion of the Christ” (6.8 million tickets) in 2004, although “The Incredibles” could come close, Almeida estimates.

Local pics seem to be in for an even harder time. Total audience for local pics fell 53% in January and February compared with the same period last year, and even perennial kid-pleaser Xuxa’s latest pic sold one million less tickets than her previous title.

Helmer Hector Babenco (whose “Carandiru” sold more than 4 million tickets) is working for TV, Fernando Meirelles is working in the U.K. and Walter Salles in the U.S. Analysts don’t see any pics from other local directors with potential to break through.

Besides the lack of strong pics, another possible cause for the poor film market performance in January was the success of leading net TV Globo’s primetime telenovela “Senhora do Destino.”

A significant portion of female moviegoers preferred to stay home and watch the six-night-a-week telenovela. By its 196th episode, “Senhora” had a 73% share, and is the most-watched series on Brazilian TV since the 1996 telenovela “The King of Cattle.”

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