Distrib focuses on Latin American pics

LaRed uses cross-border strategy

Seven Latin American distributors have banded together to form pan-regional distrib LaRed (the Network), with the aim to provide more focused releases of Latino and international indie pics.

“When European sales agents buy a Latino film, they mainly focus on European sales but more often than not, neglect to sell it in the Latin American region,” says LaRed coordinator Erick Gonzalez, who is based in Chile.

Founding partners are Mantarraya (Mexico), Interior 13 (Mexico), Cineplex (Colombia), Mutante Cine (Uruguay), Malaparte (Chile), LAT-E (Argentina) and Otro Cine (Costa Rica). Institutional support comes from the Media Program’s Media Mundus, while talks are under way with Ibermedia and the Hubert Bals Fund for more coin. Chile’s Valdivia Film Festival, where the idea of creating LaRed was first floated, will also provide support.

“Having LaRed will make it less costly and more expedient for distributors to acquire Latino films,” says Elba McAllister of Cineplex. “Buying Latino films through a European sales company has usually meant a longer, more tedious process.” LaRed members will contribute to a common fund for joint acquisitions.

“One of our core objectives is to release films that would otherwise have scant chances of being seen in our member countries. It’s a difficult and complex task as exhibition spaces are shrinking as the number of films continue to rise,” says Mutante Cine’s Fernando Epstein.

The entity is another attempt to form a distrib that will serve the entire region. Paltry TV support, widespread piracy and in some cases, the ongoing economic crisis that began after 9/11 forced other such efforts to shutter. The ones that exist are flourishing, though.

The most ambitious pan-regional distrib to come out of Mexico, Nuvision, stopped buying film rights in the early 2000s when its parent company, live entertainment conglom CIE, decided to exit the film arena when stock prices plunged after the Al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. NuVision founder-director Pedro Rodriguez relocated to Los Angeles and formed IDC Films, a joint venture with Summit Entertainment.

“NuVision was not a (failed) project, it was the beginning of an idea that lived successfully, and I’ve now brought to full life in IDC,” Rodriguez says.

Led by the “Twilight” franchise, IDC releases Summit-owned and -acquired pics in 23 Latin American countries through its deals with 17 associated members.

Another pan-regional distrib, Wyland Intl., comprising partners Telefilms, Sun Distribution and Diamond Films, has reaped box office gold in the region with “The King’s Speech,” “Midnight in Paris” and “Source Code.” It also has an output deal with David Linde’s Lava Bear Films, starting with “A Giant,” starring Shia LaBeouf. Telefilms handles TV rights, while Sun Distribution acquires all film rights. Diamond Films manages releases in Argentina and Chile.

The distribs all face the same issue: Homegrown pics just don’t travel much within the region.

“Films from Iran or Japan are more acceptable to Chilean audiences than films from Colombia or Mexico,” says Gonzalez.

Sun Distribution’s Buenos Aires-based Diego Halabi agrees. “With a few exceptions like Mexico’s ‘Amores Perros’ or Argentina’s ‘The Secret in Their Eyes,’ few Latino films do well across Latin America,” he says, adding that Sun and its partners are also planning to co-produce and distribute local films they think will perform beyond respective borders. “If the concept and format is good, it will travel well,” he says.

At stake is a lucrative marketplace. IDC has released more than 42 movies since 2005, and will have generated by year’s end more than $370 million since 2006 at the Latin American box office since then, per Rodriguez.

LaRed’s most immediate concern is finding its first pic to launch. “Hopefully, we’ll find it at Ventana Sur,” says Gonzalez of the annual December film market in Buenos Aires. n

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