New players fight for same screens

Mexico

MEXICO CITY — The indie scene in Mexico is getting grim as more players are entering the field and a wave of local product is gearing up to fight for limited space.

Daniel Birman Ripstein, head of distrib Film House, says competition for Mexico’s limited amount of arthouse theaters is increasing. New indie distribs have sprung up in the last year, from Mexican web TV Azteca’s emergent film arm to specialty distrib Tarantula Films as well as several other small ops.

“When we want to release a movie, there are two or three other distribs that want the same theater,” Birman says.

With the crunch, indies are still looking to place product picked up last year. Luis Calzada, head buyer for Quality Films, says it is going to be a “light Cannes” as he looks for releases for late 2008 at the earliest.

“We are looking for good stories; the cast is really important, but the story more so,” Calzada says. “It has to look like big product, or it won’t play.”

That view is backed by the success of local films produced by Hollywood majors, like teen romantic comedy “Charm School,” produced and released by Columbia TriStar, which has made $7 million, or Lemon Films horror pic “Km 31,” put out by Mexican web Televisa’s film arm Videocine that has made nearly $11 million. Films are U.S.-style formulaic pics that were backed by smart, large-scale marketing campaigns.

The amount of local product is surging this year. Under a new tax incentive, the number of Mexican films could jump by 20 films or more compared with 65 produced in 2006. But not even half of local productions are making it into theaters. Only 28 bowed during 2006.

Although overall distributors say the theatrical market is going from bad to worse, one exception in the first part of 2007 was Gussi Artecinema’s release of “Perfume,” which made nearly $5 million.

“People are going less and less to the theater, and when they go, it’s to see the big Hollywood films,” says Gussi’s buyer Alejandro Lebrija “We should do OK this year, but the future is not promising.”

BOX OFFICE OVERVIEW

Top Film 2006:
“Ice Age: The Meltdown”: $30 mil
Total B.O.: $552 million
Total number of releases: 298

Recent Pickups
“His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass” (Gussi Artecinema)
“Bratz: The Movie” (Quality Films)

“Passengers” (Zima)
“Farce of the Penguins” (Film House)

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