City of Sao Cristovao

Infrastructure, education priorities, says Sa Leitao

RIO DE JANEIRO — The City of Rio de Janeiro is putting its pedal to the metal in its push to become one of — if not the — biggest film and TV hubs in Latin America.

At the Cannes Festival this May, Rio City culture secretary Sergio Sa Leitao announced the $45 million Rio Polo de Audiovisual, near abutting Brazil’s 2016 Olympic Games Stadium.

Now Leitao plans a Audiovisual City of Sao Cristovao, which is part of a massive 54 million sq. ft. urban revitalization push to overhaul the crumbling post-industrial sprawl around Rio’s port, Donald Trump towers included. The urban redevelopment scheme is the biggest in Brazil, one of the biggest in the western world.

RioFilme, the Rio City film-TV investment fund where Sa Leitao serves as CEO, inked a 35-year-rental agreement on the site Sept. 23. It will now orchestrate studio construction.

Occupying a former municipal police H.Q, and topped by a Warner Bros.-style water tank, the Audiovisual City will house a 700-seat, four-screen cinema theater, a four-soundstage studio complex on 75,000 sq. ft. of land, a craft and technicians school, teaming with Rio de Janeiro Federal Institute (IFRJ), and the offices of RioFilme and the Rio Film Commission.

Costing about $12 million, Sao Cristovao is skedded to open July 2016, in time for the Olympic Games.

The two studios will service a booming TV sector.

Powered by Brazil’s swelling middle classes, pay TV subs grew 27% to 16.2 million in 2012, per Brazil’s Anatel National Telecommunications Agency. Pay TV operators are obliged by law to air 3.5 hours of Brazilian content weekly.

Audiovisual City also reflects, however, the new priorities of an emerging market film and TV industry.

“RioFilme began financing production, then distribution, then TV series production. Having consolidated production, it is clear to us that in order to take advantage of the momentum we’re helping to create, the next step had to be investment in infrastructure and in training,” Sa Leitao told Variety Monday in Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s a logical evolution. These are the two biggest obstacles we have in the development of the Rio audiovisual industry.”

With 16 studios, production offices, equipment rental companies, and post-production suites, the Polo Audiovisual will focus on film work, the Audiovisual City on TV production, given its smaller studios, he added.

For Sa Leitao, “Production companies complain about a lack of qualified professional and infrastructure. Demand has outstripped supply. We’re going to help resolve this.”

Also, Rio’s workforce is hugely interested in a craft/technical career, RioFilme COO Adrien Muselet observed.

Sao Cristovao won’t cost municipal coffers a penny.

In an area with no cinema theaters whatsoever, constructors and cinema theater owners look willing to pay for low land rentals and construction of the Audiovisual City, in exchange for its subsequent exploitation, at no cost to RioFilme, Muselet explained.

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