Producer plans diverse film slate

BUENOS AIRES — Disney-backed Patagonik Film Group, the biggest producer in Latin America, is pressing ahead with production of a diverse slate of films, from a remake of “High School Musical” to a terror film. The diverse slate marks a switch from artpics like 2002’s Oscar-nommed “Son of the Bride.”

“Our strategy is to embrace distinct styles of cinema, whether they are art or industrial films,” Juan Vera, producer and artistic director of the Buenos Aires-based outfit, told Variety.

The approach, he says, allows it to produce pics with strong box-office potential and to take on lower-budget projects that help find new talent and experiment in different genres.

The outfit, which is backed by Argentine TV producer Pol-ka Prods. and TV broadcaster/programmer Artear, is prepping a local version of Disney Channel’s “High School Musical” for the bigscreen.

Pol-ka, which is doing versions of “Desperate Housewives” in Latin America, filled the lead roles via a talent contest aired on Artear’s Canal 13 last year and was produced by Artear-backed Ideas del Sur Prods.

Jorge Nisco, director of hit TV series like “Epitafios” and “Sin codigo” and swindler film “Comodines” (Cops), will direct the $2 million musical. It’s set for a July release, when attendance surges during Argentina’s winter holidays.

Patagonik also is producing “El raton Perez 2″ (The Hairy Tooth Fairy 2), a $3.7 million toon pic starring a tooth fairy rodent, with Spain’s Filmax Entertainment and Castelao Prods. and Argentina’s Pampa Films for release at the end of 2008.

Disney’s Buena Vista Intl. has a distribution deal for Patagonik productions.

In February, Patagonik will lense “Un novio para mi mujer,” a $1 million comedy directed by Juan Taratuto (“Who Says It’s Easy”) and written by Pablo Solarz (“Intimate Stories”), with the aim for an August release.

Adrian Suar, the multihyphenate leader of Pol-ka, and Valeria Bertuccelli (“XXY”) star in the tale of a husband who tries to get his wife to fall in love with another man so he can leave her.

Patagonik is in post on “Lluvia,” directed by Paula Hernandez (“Herencia”) and toplining Bertuccelli and Ernesto Alterio (“The Method”).

Also in post is “Leonera,” a prison-set drama directed by Pablo Trapero (“Crane World”) and produced with Trapero’s Matanza Cine, Walter Salles’ VideoFilmes and South Korea’s Cineclick Asia. It’s set for release in May.

In April or May, Patagonik will start production of “Ataud Blanco” (White Coffin), a $400,000 terror film directed by Daniel de la Vega, who helmed “Jennifer’s Shadow” with Faye Dunaway and Gina Philips.

“We want to explore this niche,” Vera says. “It is an unexplored genre in Argentina that has potential for growth. It has a public, and the investment-to-return is high.”

Patagonik, run by Juan Pablo Gali, is also behind hits like Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar-nommed “Luna de Avellaneda” and Trapero’s “El Bonaerense.”

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