Universal Pictures Intl. Ups Ante in Brazil

Studio raises release levels, rings distribution options, enters local production

RIO DE JANEIRO — Distributed outside the U.S. by Universal Pictures Intl., “Trash,” which world premiered Tuesday in Rio, marks a milestone for UPI’s and indeed UPIP’s involvement in Brazil.

UPI is already a major force in Brazil: “Despicable Me 2” punched $35.5 million in Brazil, ranking No. 2 at the 2013 Brazilian box office.

On “Trash,” UPI not only releases the kids thriller – helmed by Stephen Daldry, written by Richard Curtis, but Rio-set, Portuguese-language and Brazil co-produced – in Brazil and Latin America and the rest of overseas territories but co-produces via UPI, Germany.

“Trash” was a labor of love for Stephen and Richard, made under the London UPIP umbrella,” Duncan Clark, UPI President, Distribution, pointed out on Tuesday in Rio after “Trash’s” press conference. Obviously Brazil is a key market.

Closing the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival, “Trash” will now open Thursday on 300 screens. For Brazil, “Trash” is a UPI flagship but UPI’s involvement in Brazil doesn’t stop there.

As Brazil’s market and national industry ramps up vigorously, UPI are UPIP – Universal Pictures Intl. Production – are looking to build with them. R$1.23 billion ($492 million) in 2009, total Brazil B.O. rocketed to $812.9 million in 2013, making Brazil, after eight years of continuous office growth, the thirteenth biggest theatrical market in the world.
“We have a UPI strategy to co-produce films locally, as well as acquiring them – because of the sheer size of the Brazil market, it’s a territory that we always have on our radar,” Clark said.

Brazilian films now take a larger slice of a far bigger market – 18.6% in 2013 – and Brazil is still vastly under-screened, Clark added.

Distributed by Paramount from 2007, after UIP split, UPI moved to Sony Pictures offices in 2013, and created a dedicated marketing team for its own movies, said Mauricio Duran, appointed UPI svp, Latin American marketing and distribution in 2007.

UPI used to release about one Brazilian movie on average a year; now it plans to distribute three-to-four, he added.

Distributing Brazilian movies, UPI can also now ring far more options.
Traditionally, Hollywood majors have been able to tap into Article 3 rebates – levied at 70% of coin collected by the Brazilian government from studios tax payments – to produce and distribute local films.

Releasing them, they still run the risk of taking a hit on hefty P & A spend, if a movie bombs. Increasingly, some studios in Brazil – Paramount, Disney – are investing in films, but allowing local co-distribution partners to handle physical distribution and P & A.

Per Duran, UPI will both direct distribute Brazilian titles and co-distribute with independent local distributors. UPI will be releasing “Super Dad” next year, which is helmed by Pedro Amorim, who made a splash with his debut, comedy “The Dognapper,” and co-produced by UPIP and Brazil’s Querosene Films, an on-the-rise production house.

UPIP entered Brazil a year or so ago. Brazilian comedies can breakout to near blockbuster box office in Brazil, but are becoming repetitive and compete in an increasingly crowded field. Here, Amorim looks like a fresh talent. And UPI can bring to the table its expertise at international production and distribution.

In 2014 in Spain, UPI distributed “Spanish Affair,” the highest-grossing Spanish film ever; in France, it co-produced “Babysitting,” a big breakout; as for Germany, it distributed “The Physician,” one of the top five German movies ever; and in Russia, it distributed 3D “Viy,” another big local hit.

UPI will partner with Sony to distribute “Super Dad,” but retain control of all strategic oversight.

“Brazil is one of the markets which it is obvious to embrace and encourage production. It is a 200 million population – and the business is growing every year,” Clark said.

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