Theatrical remains king in Latin America

Hollywood dominates and indies feel the squeeze

LATIN AMERICA

Theatrical remains king in Latin America, where the box office has expanded despite the financial crisis of recent years. The influx of 3D pics from Hollywood has helped boost grosses but has also created one more layer of saturation, according to Pedro Rodriguez of L.A.-based distrib IDC Films.

“There aren’t enough 3D screens in Latin America, so there’s room for only 12 to 13 3D movies a year,” he says. Out of 10,000-plus screens in Latin America, only about 600 are 3D.

Latin American buyers have grown more cautious about indies, but Luis Calzada of Mexico’s Quality Films says that “the upside is that fewer indie pics in the market means more screentime for those that are released.”

On the homevideo front, the bulk of the biz is in sell-through, and consumers are favoring library titles or waiting two or three months after a pic’s release for discounted prices. Piracy remains endemic with penetration at 95% in most markets.

As for TV, webs are sated from their output deals with studios, so only a few bonafide indie hits, such as the “Twilight” franchise, gain a broadcast berth.

Bootleggers dominate the online biz, and there is no formal VOD business yet. Further exacerbating the market is limited bandwidth, hardware penetration and purchasing power.

“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (cume gross of $65.5 million) has knocked off “Passion of the Christ” ($59 million) as the all-time theatrical indie B.O. champ in the region.

Total 2009 box office: $1.6 billion, up 16%

Total number of releases: 250

Top 2009 indie film: “New Moon,” $65.5 million

Top 2010 indie pickups:

• “The Hurt Locker,” Distribution Co. (Argentina)

• “The Fields,” Quality Films (Mexico)

• “The Secret in Their Eyes,” Cineplex (Colombia)

• “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” IDC Films (Latin America)

• “The Next Three Days,” Gussi (Mexico)

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