BUENOS AIRES — With heavy competition and slim returns, Argentina’s film distribution market is tough for an upstart like Pachamama Cine.
“You’ve got to be creative and flexible,” says Alejandro De Grazia, who founded the outfit in 2005, and has distributed titles like “21 Grams” and “The Emperor’s Club.”
Buena Vista Intl., 20th Century Fox, Columbia Tristar, United Intl. Pictures and Warner Bros. dominate 75% of box office receipts, releasing big titles like “Shrek The Third” on 120 screens — four-times greater than average — with marketing blitzes unaffordable for most local players.
To contend, Pachamama keeps down costs and uses fresh marketing campaigns geared toward a film’s target audience. It works with each of the dozen titles in its annual release slate for at least two months and uses inhouse art and press departments to pump up the designs, along with well-placed and timed marketing, says De Grazia, who picked up experience at outfits including Arturo Feliu’s Chilean distrib-rights broker Phoenix World Investments.
“We buy directly from the source, not from intermediaries,” De Grazia says.
In the 1990s, Argentina’s distribution biz was more profitable. The peso’s 1-for-1 peg with the U.S. dollar kept ticket prices at a stable $6-$8. Since a peso devaluation in 2002, prices have dropped to less than half that, currently averaging $3.25.
This has hiked the dollar-based costs of the business, such as rights, while annual inflation of 10% is pushing up the cost of advertising, prints, rent, salaries and other items.
“Argentina has poor returns in U.S. dollars,” De Grazia says. “The ticket price cannot be adjusted more than it already is because of inflation, and so profits are smaller and risk is greater.”
Even so, Argentina’s volatile history means it is best to stay in the game, as things are bound to improve.
“Argentina is very cyclical,” De Grazia says.
Pachamama’s current release slate ranges from low-budget thrillers to international festival winners.
It has picked up rights for Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Barcelona,” Cannes-laurelled “4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days,” George Romero’s “Diary of the Dead,” Bruce Willis-starrer “Alpha Dog” and the low-budget terror flick “The Tribe.”
It also has “Bratz,” “Tekken” and “Big Stan” from the producers of “Ghost Rider,” plus “Dante 01,” “Buddha Collapsed out of Shame,” “The Hand of the Headless Man,” and the erotic thriller “The Book of Revelations.”
Pachamama also distributes in Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.