Brazil climbs high with ‘Spider-Man’

Could be best year since 2004

RIO DE JANEIRO Following its disappointing performances in 2005 and 2006, the film market in Brazil is presenting signs of a recovery this year. Local execs believe the strong lineup of Hollywood blockbusters could make 2007 the best year for the industry since 2004.

The market performed well in the first four months of this year, but the most significant gains were registered with the May 4 opening of “Spider-Man 3.” Sam Raimi’s sequel broke the country’s B.O. and attendance records for a first weekend. In it’s second week, it is already the year’s ranking leader in Brazil with a total B.O. of 30.3 million reals ($15.2 million). In the first 18 weeks of 2007 (including the first weekend of “Spider-Man 3), B.O. was $126.8 million, up 7.8% from the same period in 2006. Total attendance rose 4.5% to 31.3 million, according to Nielsen EDI.

“The market is improving, because we have better films this year. For the local taste, the films in past years were not as satisfying,” says Rodrigo Saturnino Braga, general manager of Columbia TriStar Buena Vista do Brasil, which launched “Spider-Man 3.”

Marco Aurelio Marcondes, theatrical director of the country’s top indie distrib Europa Filmes & MA Marcondes, says the local market will further grow thanks to a series of blockbuster releases until September.

Marcondes is pegging “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (opening May 25), “Shrek the Third” (June 15), and “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” (June 29) as top summer grossers.

“This set of films will heat up the market. I estimate the total box office will grow about 8.5% this year, while total attendance will rise about 6%,” Marcondes predicts.

Local pics, however, have had more trouble this year. In the first quarter of 2007, B.O. for local pics decreased 28%. “Antonia,” “O Pai, O” and “Caixa 2” did not perform as well as expected. The sole exception is “The Big Family,” which sold 2 million tickets.

Fake IDs

If the film sector is celebrating the recent figures, it continues to face serious problems. As in many other countries, piracy is increasingly an issue. But local exhibs seem to be even more worried with the proliferation of fake student ID cards in Brazil, where students get a 50% discount on tickets for films, plays and concerts.

The Exhibitors National Federation (Feneec) recently launched a major campaign to curb the fake ID practice and to call for a federal rule regulating student discounts.

According to Feneec president Ricardo Difini, until 2001, only two national students organizations, the UNE (college students) and UBES (high school students), were entitled to issue the cards. But a 2001 decree allowed any educational institution or association to issue IDs.

Difini says a number of entities were created with the sole purpose of selling fake IDs.

“Previously to 2001, the share of tickets with student discounts represented from 30% to 40% of our sales. Now, it accounts for about 70% of sales,” Difini says.

In order to compensate for the losses, he adds, exhibitors have to increase full ticket prices, driving away patrons who refuse to buy fake IDs.

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