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Guadalajara: Mexico’s Film Industry Analyzes 2016 Records, Big Picture Challenges

As a potential NAFTA renegotiation mobilizes filmmakers

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — The Mexican Film Institute unveiled at least two, if not three, all-time historical records this week at Mexico’s Guadalajara Festival as it unveiled its2016 Statistical Year Book of Mexican Cinema.

Figures confirmed one of the best years in modern times for Mexican movie-making. But a shadow lent a pall to proceedings: U.S. president Donald Trump’s announcement of his intention to at least renegotiate, if not scrap, the 23-year-old North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.

Presenting last year’s industry statistics, Jorge Sanchez, director of the IMCINE Film Institute, made an effective call to arms, urging Mexico’s “film community and institutions to launch initiatives creating a shield for the Mexican film industry.”

Also present on the panel presenting last year’s results, actress Dolores Heredia, seen in Mel Gibson’s “Get the Gringo” and also president of the Mexican Academy of the Arts and Cinematographic Sciences, effectively picked up that gauntlet, saying its members would meet to discuss a roadmap going forward, seeking consultancy with “the most brilliant” experts on where a re-cast NAFTA could leave Mexico’s film industry.

The uncertainty created by possible new NAFTA rules took the edge of some best-ever results chalked up in 2016. It also forced panelists to think of a bigger picture of what the Mexican film industry has achieved of late in a market which is one of the world’s best for Hollywood’s major studios. Here are 10 stats and analysis items, from micro to macro POVs. Many are relatable to a greater or lesser extent with other countries in Latin America, and beyond:

1.PRODUCTION SURGES TO AN ALL-TIME RECORD

Mexico produced 162 features in 2016, up 16% on 2015’s 140, near 12 times 2002’s production level of just 14 films, and an all-time record, beating the Golden Age highpoint in 1958. It also marks the seventh year of consecutive growth in production volumes, observed political scientist José Woldenberg, another panelist.

2.BOX OFFICE GROSSES FOR MEXICAN MOVIES HAS NEVER BEEN HIGHER, DITTO, MOST PROBABLY ADMISSIONS

Mexican movies grossed Pesos 1.3 billion ($67 million), another all time best. They also sold 30.5 million cinema tickets, up on 2013’s 30.1 million, when “Instruction Not Included” and “We Are the Nobles” set records at the Mexican box office. Admission are a modern, and maybe historical record.

3.PRIVATE -SECTOR INVESTOR CONFIDENCE GROWS

Movies backed by state incentives remained stable at 94 produced last year, the same figure as in 2015. That seems only natural given that total public-sector financing also plateau-ed at Pesos 800 million ($41 million). But movies receiving no state coin rocketed up 48% last year from 46 to 68. Two explanations: 66 documentaries, which are often self-financed,  were made last year, the highest number on record, and double 2013. Also, “we’re beginning to see a certain confidence on the part of the Mexican public towards Mexican movies. The diversity of movies also allows for different ways of distributing Mexican films,” said Juan Carlos Dominguez, research co-ordinator on the 2016 Statistical Year Book of Mexican Cinema. Private funds – VCS Capital, which talked on a panel Tuesday at Guadalajara – and private investors, such as Adrian Bazan, at Cinema 226, are also now seeing Mexican cinema as a sector to bet on.

4.MOVIES OUTPACE THE ECONOMY AT LARGE

Over 2008-2014, Mexican film industry GDP grew an average 6.5% year-on-year, nearly three times that of Mexico’s economy overall, which expanded at a 2.0% rate.

5.BUT MEXICO INDUSTRY SHOULD GROW FAR MORE

That’s some of the good news. But Mexico’s modern movie surge must still be placed in perspective. Its films’ 9% market share of box office gross, according to IMCINE estimates, is way down on that of Europe’s major industries, said another panelist, academic Ana Rosas Mantecón, citing figures of 35% for France, 27% for Germany and 18% for Spain. In general, Hollywood’s studios have it better in Latin America, where their market share reaches 85%, than any other part of the world. Big festival prizes and production volume still has to translate into substantial audiences for Mexican films, she argued. That is indeed arguable. An average annual 11.3 million over 2000-12, admissions for Mexican movies has skyrocketed to an average 25.5 million over 2013-16, one year after production volumes took a huge hike from 73 films in 2012 to 112 in 2013 after confidence in there use of Efecine production tax breaks grew.

But Mexico most certainly is still way off any kind of market share which would put it on a par with Europe’s major industries.

6.BLIM – THE BIG NEW KID IN THE TV BLOCK

Rather surprisingly, the total number of TV series (as opposed to telenovelas) produced in Mexico last year, at least according to IMCINE statistics, just edged up, up to 19, from 18 in 2015. Most analysts would have expected a far sharper increase. What the stats do show, however, is how Blim, Televisa’s new SVOD platform launched in February 2016, is already impacting on TV production, accounting for eight series in 2016, according to the Year Book. Netflix produced one (“Club de Cuervos”), America Movil’s ClaroVideo another (“La Hermandad”). All told, Mexico’s SVOD platforms represented over half the country’s series production, a mark of their already game-changing impact on shorter format TV drama creation in one of Latin America’s most major markets.

7.ONE WOMAN WHO MAKES MAJOR BOX OFFICE HITS.  

The highest-grossing Mexican movie last year and the third-biggest local movie hit ever in Mexico,  was “Don’t Blame the Kid,” one of whose producers is Monica Lozano, also producer of “Instructions Not Included,” the No. 1 all-time champ. Women directed five movies in 2008, 37 last year, while producing 49. Rather like Mexican movie box office in general, things could be much better, but they have improved.

8.INTERNATIONAL CO-PRODUCTIONS, ANOTHER RECORD

The U.S. remains Mexico’s favorite film partner, responsible for 11 of its 45 international co-productions over 2016. Only Spain, involved in nine, came close. Multiple factors suggest U.S.-Mexican co-productions could increase still further:

the U.S. co-base of many top Mexican companies, young Mexicans’ attendance at U.S. film schools, the figures punched by very select Mexican movies in the U.S. and Hollywood studios’ interest in co-producing Mexican movies –

10.FIGHTING TALK

No Mexican movie made last year’s Top 10 at the box office. Faced by what she called the “screen saturation of U.S. movies,” Mantecon floated the idea of various ripostes: Sanctioning studios’ monopolistic practices; limiting releases’ screen counts; guaranteeing minimAL theatrical runs for Mexican movies. This is fighting talk. Before the devaluation of the peso, Mexico represented Hollywood’s No. 1 market in Latin America. It is still one of the two most important, alongside Brazil. One initial impression left by IMCINE’s 2016 results is that not only Mexico but Hollywood has a lot to lose by any NAFTA negotiation which alters the rules of engagement regarding market access for the two countries.

MEXICAN MOVIES PRODUCED, 2000-16

2000: 28; 2001: 21; 2002: 14; 2003: 29; 2004: 36: 2005: 53; 2006: 64; 2007: 70: 2008: 70; 2009: 66; 2010: 69; 2011: 73; 2012: 112; 2013: 126; 2014: 130; 2015: 140; 2016: 162.

ADMISSIONS TO MEXICAN FILMS, 2000-16

(In millions)

2000: 11.1; 2001: 11.9; 2002: 14.7; 2003: 7.5; 2004: 9; 2005: 7.1; 2006: 11; 2007: 13.4; 2008: 13.2; 2009: 12.4; 2010: 11.5; 2012: 10.9; 2013: 30.1; 2014: 24; 2015: 17.5; 2016: 30.5.

Source: 2016 Statistical Yearbook of Mexican Cinema

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