Rally ramifications

March rattles Spanish-lingo nets

Monday’s immigration protests have already created headaches for Spanish-language webs — and proved a boon to Latin marketers.

Unlike studios — where the impact of the planned boycott and rally remained unclear heading into the weekend — Spanish-language webs have been forced to grapple on a corporate level with the ramifications of the protest, dubbed “A Day Without a Latino” in homage to the 2004 mockumentary “A Day Without a Mexican.”

NBC Universal’s Telemundo has issued employee guidelines advising staffers they may take the day off as a vacation day pending managerial approval. But a rep noted that employees covering the story “are bound by journalistic ethics not to participate in rallies to avoid compromising their impartiality.”

Rival Univision is following the same policy, but being the nation’s largest Spanish-language web has also made it a primary target of immigrant advocates. Armando Navarro, a UC Riverside professor and immigration activist, is urging people to boycott Univision Communications and its affiliates, claiming the company distributed a memo to employees ordering them not to participate or promote the “Day Without a Latino” event. Univision denies that such a memo was circulated.

Mexican actress Salma Hayek, meanwhile, is shuttering her Ventanarosa Prods. office Monday in solidarity with the general strike. She has been working behind the scenes with Sen. Joe Biden’s (D-Del.) office to lobby for immigrants’ rights.

There have been rumblings of boycotts at studios, but there didn’t appear to be any massive organized activity as of Thursday. In any case, reps contacted by Daily Variety weren’t aware of them.

At the very least, the rally could prove disruptive to anyone working in the Miracle Mile/Mid-Wilshire area, with a large stretch of Wilshire Boulevard expected to be closed between 3 and 8 p.m. The march is skedded to begin at MacArthur Park, with protesters then marching west to La Brea Boulevard or La Brea Tar Pits. Management for the two buildings housing E!, the Weinstein Co.’s L.A. offices and Daily Variety sent a detailed advisory about possible disruptions Wednesday afternoon.

A rep for E! said it had developed a contingency plan to ensureoperations would not be disrupted, but did not provide further details. The Screen Actors Guild is shutting its offices at 2 p.m. to ensure its staffers are able to get home before the rally. Premiere magazine simply decided to shutter its L.A. office in the same stretch of Wilshire Boulevard and have its staffers work from home.

Meanwhile, marketers with Latin-themed product have already begun cashing in.

Visual Entertainment said DVD sales of “A Day Without a Mexican” have spiked 50%-75% in recent weeks, with Latino-targeted mass merchants posting such significant gains — more than 100% in certain cases — that some are considering expanding them chainwide. The pic by Sergio Arau and Yereli Arizmendi, which depicts Los Angeles in chaos after all the Mexicans disappear, has sold more than 400,000 copies since its DVD debut more than a year and a half ago.

“That’s pretty fabulous for a film of its size,” said marketing veep Soumya Sriraman, an Indian immigrant who’s been conferring with a studio pal of Mexican origins about protest plans.

Backers of the film plan on distributing fliers and T-shirts at the rally, and the husband and wife filmmakers intend to film the rally for an upcoming docu.

“There’s certainly no need to make a mockumentary this time,” Arizmendi said.

Meanwhile, other video labels are rushing out their product. “Cochise County, USA — Cries From the Border,” a Genius Product docu with footage of border crossings, will be available for online purchase Tuesday, a few weeks before the DVD arrives in stores.

HBO has also benefited, albeit by pure coincidence, from the rallies with its airing of “Walkout.” HBO Films’ fictionalized account of the 1968 student walkouts debuted a few weeks before the immigration debate exploded.

Producer Moctesuma Esparza of Maya Films, who runs new Latino exhibit circuit Maya Cinemas, is planning a theatrical release with the backing of investors and guild approval to secure waivers of residual payments normally doled out before theatrical release. So far, only the DGA has agreed.

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