It was television and video that basically killed Colombian moviegoing, but now TV is helping to bring it back. Local productions are getting more traction at the box office, thanks in part to the support of the local television duopoly of RCN and Caracol TV.
Both webs have been competing neck and neck over television ratings and market shares for years. This time their fierce rivalry has extended to backing films by providing free ad space and promos in exchange for a share in box office revenues.
RCN formed a film department three years ago, but it saw real results just last year when the CMO production it backed, “Sonar no cuesta nada” (A Ton of Luck), scored 1.2 million admissions. “Sonar” ranks second to the all-time local record set 12 years ago by “La estrategia del caracol,” (The Strategy of the Snail) with 1.5 million admissions.
“RCN Cine’s commitment can extend beyond bartering ad space for a cut in box office revenues to giving access to their wardrobe department or providing news images for a film,” says “Sonar” executive producer Ana Pineres.
Caracol has been supporting nearly all pics by Dago Garcia, who each year produces a comedy usually released during the Christmas period and cast with telenovela thesps. Caracol has yet to form a film department but has appointed execs to oversee all film-related business.
“Caracol’s board of directors is committed to supporting Colombian cinema,” board adviser Camilo Duran says.
While still mulling projects to back, it has launched a weekly docu hour in support of nonfiction features. Titled “Entre ojos” (Between the Eyes), the Saturday program is open to local and international docus that Caracol deems interesting to its viewers.
Some feel Caracol could be doing even more to support local cinema, but this may change as Caracol sees RCN reaping the benefits from the hits it has supported such as “Bluff,” “Karmma” and CMO’s newest hit, “Esto huele mal” (It Smells). Helmed by Jorge Ali Triana and based on Fernando Quiroz’s bestselling novel, dramedy drew 220,000 admissions in two weeks. It is currently positioned as the biggest local grosser of the year, only second to “The Simpsons” in the overall ranking.
CMO (Clara Maria Ochoa) Prods. has also struck barter deals with other media including small TV and radio stations. “TV support is vital, but some people just don’t go to the movies,” Pineres says.
In 20 years, total admissions for both local and international cinema eroded by 72%, according to a report by producer Julio Luzardo. But in the past two years, local pics have been rising up the box office ranks.
With advertising costs escalating as well, support from television has been a godsend to producers. Out of 43 Colombian pics in the past seven years, only six were profitable, according to Luzardo. This includes “Sonar no cuesta nada” and four pics by Garcia.
So, although “Television usurped movies as the primary form of entertainment these past years,” as Luzardo puts it, local cinema is finally getting the break it needs by getting the validation of broadcasters.