Homevid co., Maya team for film festival

Beleaguered homevid retail giant Blockbuster is making a pitch for the fast-growing U.S. Hispanic market by teaming with mini-Latino studio Maya Entertainment to set up a film festival and screenwriting competition.

“We’ve always had an eye on the growing Hispanic demo, which has overindexed on movies and DVDs for a number of years now,” said Keith Leopard, Blockbuster’s film content director.

Move is aimed at driving more customers to the retailer’s 3,900 U.S. stores, which account for roughly 70% of its revenues. At least 400 of the stores are in predominantly Latino neighborhoods.

Fest, dubbed Maya Independent Sponsored by Blockbuster, will screen Latino-themed pics in 10 cities including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

Fest kicks off in June and wraps in September (Hispanic Heritage Month), when pics will be available for rental exclusively at Blockbuster.

Titles include 2008 Sundance Film Festival entry “Mancora” and 2008 Toronto selection title “Once Upon a Time in Rio.” The official list, including mainstream, genre and arthouse titles, will be unveiled shortly.

“The biggest problem in expanding Latino shelf space among homevideo retailers was the lack of a consistent quality flow of product,” said Maya Home Entertainment VP Victor Elizalde.

The Los Angeles-based upstart, founded in February 2008, aims to release each year some 30-40 Latino-themed pics, including theatrical and direct-to-video titles that it produces or acquires.

Festival films will be shown on some screens belonging to sister exhib Maya Cinemas, which will have 50 screens in California by September.

Maya aims to spend up to $1 million on P&A, using local TV, radio, Internet, mobile campaigns and grassroots promotions, according to Maya VP of marketing and digital media Jaime Gamboa.

Meanwhile, the winner of screenwriting competition Project Goldenlight will likely have a theatrical release before being made available exclusively at participating Blockbuster stores.

The selection panel includes “Transformers” and “Star Trek” scribe Roberto Orci, Maya founder and CEO Moctesuma Esparza, LatinoReview.com’s El Mayimbe and Endeavor agent Alexis Garcia.

Blockbuster posted a net loss of $359.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.

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