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Film authorities prepping screen quota system

BUENOS AIRES — Film authorities in Mercosur, South America’s biggest trade bloc, are preparing a pan-continental screen quota system to ensure longer exhibition and more favorable treatment for indigenous production.

The idea is to extend the model — already in operation in Argentina and Brazil — to Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, says Jorge Alvarez, president of Argentina’s state film institute, INCAA.

While Argentina is releasing 60-70 features a year and Chile and Venezuela’s production is rising, “the distribution circuits are saturated,” limiting exposure and coin for local pics, he says.

Quotas would be in line with political trends in Latin America, which has seen a surge in populist leaders like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. This could limit exhibition of Hollywood films, which have dominated 80-90% of box office receipts since a boom in multiplex construction in the 1990s, when foreign investment policies were friendlier.

“There is a political willingness to do this,” says Luis Ignacio Perez Endara, head of Buenos Aires distrib-production company Compania General de la Imagen.

Other initiatives to embolden local fare include more distribution and marketing credits, and the axing of limits and duties on the circulation of prints from Mercosur throughout the block, which boasts 232 million, or 70% of South America’s population. Another is to band producers and authorities together for exporting films. Says Alvarez: “We can negotiate more strongly as a bloc than on an individual basis.”

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