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Funds pump up Puerto Rican films

Seven local films opened this year

Puerto Rico’s film industry is booming, thanks to a 40% tax credit incentive available to both local and international productions and a film fund that backs up to 80% of a local pic’s budget (or $1.2 million per pic).

“The economic impact on the island has grown from just $2 million in 2000 to an estimated $32 million this year,” Puerto Rican film commissioner Luis Riefkohl says.

Seven Puerto Rican films opened this year, compared with just three in 2006 and none in 2003.

An increasing number of big international productions have come to the U.S. Commonwealth territory. Steven Soderbergh just wrapped shooting of his Che Guevara biopic “The Argentine” on the island.

The $40 million Oliver Stone executive-produced “Escobar” is slated to shoot in Puerto Rico early next year. Bob Yari Prods., producer of rival Escobar project “Killing Pablo,” is in talks with the Puerto Rican Film Commission.

“It was very important for us to ensure that we could match locations exactly with those in Colombia,” say “Escobar” producers Justin Berfield & Jason Felts of J2 Pictures. “That said, while we intend to shoot the majority of the picture in PR, we are also utilizing select locations in Colombia.”

Smaller but equally high-profile pics filmed in Puerto Rico last year, included Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Films “El Cantante” and “Feel the Noise” as well as the John Singleton-produced “Illegal Tender.”

Given their Hollywood pedigree, the Soderbergh and Stone pics will likely have their domestic distribution secured, but smaller Puerto Rican pics still struggle to reach the mainland U.S. market, which includes 8 million Puerto Ricans.

U.S. Latino distrib Maya Releasing will distribute Puerto Rican Oscar entry “Maldeamores” (Lovesickness) in February and is eyeing comedy “Manuela & Manuel,” which unspooled at the AFI Fest.

“We’re hoping ‘Maldeamores’ will work on two tiers — as a commercial film in heavily Latino populated cities such as New York, Miami, Chicago, and as an arthouse release,” Maya Releasing CEO Michael Harpster says.

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