Platform hit for thesp's helming debut

MADRID — Diego Luna (“Milk,” “Y tu mama tambien”) has seen “Abel,” his fiction feature directorial debut, break records for a platform release in his native Mexico.

Bowing May 28, “Abel” is the biggest opening ever for top Mexican production house Canana, the groundbreaking shingle the thesp-turned-director and producer founded in 2004 with Gael Garcia Bernal and Pablo Cruz.

Bowed on just 64 prints by Videocine, the movie distrib arm of Mexican TV giant Televisa, “Abel” grossed a standout Pesos 3.2 million ($249,312) Friday to Sunday. Monday cume ran to $281,415.

B.O. bests by a mile Mexico’s previous biggest limited release opener, “Shakespeare in Love,” which grossed approx. $150,000 in its first-weekend, Cruz told Variety.

Faced with big hitters such as “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” “Marmaduke,” “Robin Hood” and “Iron Man 2,” “Abel” ranked No. 6 on Mexico’s weekend charts. But its first-weekend per-print average — $3,895 — trounced all rivals save for “Prince’s” $8,428.

“Abel” will now expand to a further 40 locations around Mexico City, Cruz said. It will then roll out in Northern Mexico.

A broken family dramedy, “Abel” turns on a nine-year-old boy behaving, after his father walks out, as the father of the house.

World preeming at Sundance, “Abel” also played Cannes as a Special Screening, reaping critical plaudits.

Part of its standout bow, the best by a Mexican film this year, can also be put down to its two-pronged promotion, attacking both mass audiences and grass-roots demos.

In a ground-breaking move, Televisa broadcast breakfast satellite link-ups from Cannes, featuring “Abel” and other Mexican films such as best actor (Javier Bardem) winner “Biutiful” and Camera d’Or recipient “Leap Year.”

Meanwhile, Luna hit the road in Mexico, screening “Abel” at hospitals and to audiences of single mothers.

Cruz said: “We gave ‘Abel’ all the exposure we could. It seems to have worked. And people love the film.”

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