AG Studios Enters Brazil, Colombia (EXCLUSIVE)

Alex Garcia looks to Latin America for further expansion

BUENOS AIRES — In an out-of-the-box expansive move, Alex Garcia, one of, if not the most active investor in Latin American cinema, has created production labels in Brazil and Colombia.

The two beach-heads, Itaca Films Brazil and Itaca Films Colombia, mark the latest growth move from Garcia, who already boasts a network of subsids and affiliates in L.A. and Mexico, recently grouped under AG Studios, a production, financing, distribution and sales holding.

Upcoming Garcia production credits range from Paul Schrader’s “The Jesuit” to Gael Garcia Bernal-starrer “El Desierto,” helmed by Jonas Cuaron, co-scribe of “Gravity,” and Damien Bichir’s directorial deb “El refugio,” with Eva Longoria.

Garcia-produced, Mexican ‘80s retro comedy “Flying Low” world premiered at Los Cabos 2nd Baja Fest last month.

Up-and-running Jan. 1 2014, the Rio-based Itaca Films Brazil will be headed by “Rosario Tijeras” producer, Colombian Gustavo Angel, who has worked extensively with Mexico, co-producing Alebrije’s “Colosio: The Assassination,” and taking an associate producer on the “Flying Low.”

Itaca Films Colombia will be based out of Bogota, Garcia said. Garcia already owns Itaca Films in Mexico.

Both companies will channel AG Studios investments in their respective territories.

Via Eduardo Costa’s Buenos Aires-based Costa Films, in which Garcia has a minority stake, Garcia has already invested in high-profile Brazilian movies, such as, with Universal, Jose Padilha’s “Elite Squad” plus biopic “Lula,” produced by L.C. Barreto.

“We’re looking at projects from the five or six big Brazilian film production companies, with a view to boarding four-or-five projects next year,” Garcia said.

Entering Brazil, AG’s prime aim is to make movies from Brazil and Mexico that work in both markets and for the world, he added.

“Our aim is to make films that open in cinemas in Brazil and Mexico.”

In its fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth, in 2012, Brazil box office stood at $707.3 million. Brazilian movies took a 17.85% market share through October this year, per Filme B.

IHS forecasts that by 2017, Brazil will be the 10th biggest world market, ahead of Mexico and Italy.

“You have a lot of great talent in Brazil,” Garcia said, citing Alice Braga and Wagner Moura.

Brazil and Mexico have similar tastes, Garcia argued: “We both have telenovelas, the way we think is very similar. The big challenge is the language.”

Entertainment-driven comedies touching social issues – “We Are the Nobles,” which rolls off Mexico’s rich/poor divide; “If I Were You,” a Brazilian gender identity switch laffer, – have gone boffo in both territories, “Nobles” grossing $26.3 million, the “If I Were You” franchise $36.1 in Brazil.

At the Rio Fest, “Instructions Not Included” producer Monica Lozano, whom Garcia partners with at Altavista, optioned Mexican rights to “If I Were You.”

“Remakes are great. But what I’d really love to make is an original film that can work in both markets,” Garcia enthused. “The big challenge is to justify the use of the two-languages, Spanish and Portuguese,” he said.

One solution could be sound-stage-based double-version productions, he added.

In Colombia, Garcia is studying building soundstages.

“Yes, they’re focused on attracting international productions, but, if we did it well, most of the international productions would be from Brazil. It costs a lot to produce in Brazil, and could well cost more in the future; Colombia is really near, and landscapes are very similar. ”

Also, “Colombia has a fantastic creative capacity, in both screenwriters and directors. It’s a bit like San Fernando for Internet, he added, citing multi-platform productions such as Rhayuela’s “Buenaventura. Mon Amour.” which Garcia co-produces.

Beyond that, “Colombian crews are accustomed to work in TV, can be very fast, but also work on high-quality movies. The more movies we can send them the better,” Garcia said.

“I think we can make the same film in Colombia for half its cost in Brazil.”

For Mexico, Garcia’s Brazil move is thinking out of the box.

“In Mexico, we’re continually thinking of cross over to the U.S. But that’s simple: If you want to cross over, make an American film. But we Mexicans never think of crossing over to Europe or Brazil.

On Brazilian films, international distribution could be carried out via AG’s distribution/sales arm Latam Pictures, for Latin America, and beyond by international sales companies sourced by Latam Pictures.

Latam has held negotiations to split sales rights on titles, said Latam Pictures co-head Mineko Mori said.

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