Initiative reps the latest move in Latin America to conquer domestic auds

BUENOS AIRES – As their films snag prizes and sales worldwide, Latin America is turning to another battle: Conquering its own domestic movie market.

That’s no small skirmish. Latin America’s B.O. rose 16% to $2.3 billion in 2011, outpacing emerging market rivals Asia (up 8%) and Central-Eastern Europe (up 10%), per IHS-Screen Digest.

Latin America’s home market distrib drives vary radically: Argentina is obliging Hollywood studios to distribute more Argentine fare; Brazil has hiked its Fondo Sectorial subsidy find to about $400 million for 2013, looking to power up production, so domestic market share.

In the latest move, to be unveiled Sunday at Buenos Aires’ Ventana Sur, private-sector-run promo org Cinemachile will announce a new domestic distribution arm, Cinemachile Distribution – aimed at goosing Chilean pics’ market share in Chile.

Launching 2013 and headed by Tehani Staiger, CD will distribute at least 10 movies a year, said Constanza Arena, Cinemachile exec director.

First titles up include two from “The Maid” producer Forastero,” Domingo Sotomayor’s Rotterdam Tiger winner “Thursday to Sunday,” which opens Jan. 10, and mistaken identity thriller “R. Lorena,” plus high Andes shepherdess sister drama “The Quispe Girls,” produced by Fabula (“Young & Wild,” “No”).

Cinemachile Distribution will apply to state development funds for P & A, oversee marketing but pass on rentals to producers.

Chile’s total B.O. shot up 26% to $92.3 million in 2011. Chilean pics’ share, however, was just 5.3%.

As over Latin America, exhibition is highly concentrated and dominated by multiplexes. In Chile, U.S. loop Cinemark owns 34% of screens, Hoyts 26%, province-based Cinemundo 27%.

Cinemachile will coordinate releases, avoiding local pics’ cannibalizing one other, Arena said.

“Chilean cinema has achieved significant production levels of 26 films a year, quality, diversity, international recognition, sales and co-productions. Domestic distribution is now our weakest link,” Arena said.

Rarely handling Chilean pics, though “Stefan vs. Kramer,” grossed $12.0 million for Fox this summer, Hollywood studios will be little affected by Cinemachile’s distrib drive.

But international art-house titles, including many U.S. indie pics, may find themselves in direct competition for screens and auds.

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