Latin America at a glance

DEFINITION: Latin America is considered to encompass all Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries south of the Rio Grande, plus Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

POPULATION: 320 million

ECONOMIES: With the exception of Brazil, where runaway inflation is still rampant, most countries have managed to stabilize local currencies and brought down inflation below 30% a year. There is a “new prosperity” as huge sums in investments pour into the area, thanks to relative political and economic stability and growth potential.

In the entertainment sector, biggest development has come in cable TV growth, especially in Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and Chile. Cinema construction and conversion is progressing in all major territories.

U.S. INVESTMENTS: A dozen or so U.S. companies have started up operations in Latin America.

In addition to the customary distribution operations of product from the majors and indies in the theatrical, TV and homevid sectors, a bevy of TV banners has started to beam Spanish and Portuguese-lingo programs to Latin America.

In addition, there are direct Latin-based investments and joint ventures: Time Life/WB/Sony is a partner with Omnivision in HBO-Ole in Venezuela. WB also partners in Marte TV, a Venezuelan soap production company.

Further, satellite company Panamsat is half owned by Yank interests in Connecticut and half by Mexico’s Televisa. Spelling/Worldvision/Blockbuster are partners with Mexico’s Multivision in Tele-Uno, a satellite feed.

The Discovery Channel is partnered with Mexico’s Televisa; Cine Canal, another satellite feed, owned by UIP and Fox, is partnered with Multivision, SACSA and Telefe. Telemundo’s Latin feed will be partnered with Reuters, Spain’s Antena 3 TV and Argentina’s ARTEAR. Cinemark Theatres has a joint venture with the Daire group in Chile in a multiplex, and is building a second one. Similarly , Cinemark is building hardtops in Mexico City.

Here are the basics on four of the key territories, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Chile, obtained via Variety interviews with local leaders in the sectors:

ARGENTINA

Theatrical attendance 1993: 22 million.

Top ticket price: $ 6.

Number of screens: 260.

Some 75% of revenue comes from Buenos Aires. Major exhib circuits, Buenos Aires: Coll/Saragusti and SAC control about 90%of B.O. Also Transeuropa (8 screens).

Major distribs: Transmundo, Transeuropa, Distrifilms.

Market size: About $ 160 million in theatrical billings.

TV: Buenos Aires TV stations: ARTEAR (Channel 13); Telefe (Channel 11); Romay (channel 9); ATC (government) (Channel 7); La Plata (Channel 2). All provide feeds to cable systems. By law no networks exist. But B.A. stations now deliver signals to cable systems around the country by satellite.

Cable: More than 1,200 systems in Argentina, of which about 700 provide bulk of revenue. Biggest two are in Buenos Aires: Cablevision, 350,000 subscribers, offering 43 channels, four of them their own. VCC has 150,000 subscribers, about 30 channels. Also various smaller systems such as Multicanal (owned by the Clarin pubishing group) and Buenos Aires Cable (owned by Alejandro Romay, of Channel 9).

Cable Programmers: Largest is Alberto Gonzalez’s Imagen Satelital, which puts out 10 channels, some (SPACE, Infinity, Jupiter, Venus) programmed by them, others (Bandeirantes and Eco) picked up. Others: Telefe now has an all-news channel, La Red. Cablevision and VCC program three or four of their own channels. Todo Noticias, all news put out by ARTEAR. Subscriber charge, $ 28-$ 45 month.

CHILE

Theatrical attendance 1993: 3,850,000.

Top ticket price: $ 5.75.

B.O. gross 1993: $ 4.62 million (about 60% from Santiago).

Number of screens: 120.

Distrib/exhib: Country is virtually monopolized by Conate, which runs 35 screens (23 in Santiago) and releases all the majors, plus indies.

TV: Channels: Channel 13, owned by the Catholic university; Television Nacional de Chile, Channel 7, government-owned; Megavision, private, 49% owned by Mexico’s Televisa; La Red, Channel 4, private; Chilevision, Channel 22, private, 49% owned by Venezuela’s Venevision; UCV, owned by the Catholic University of Valparaiso.

Total TV spot ad sales: About $ 150 million in ’93.

Note: All Santiago channels are transmitted to rest of country via 125 booster stations.

Cable: Two major groups involved: Metropolis, 35,000 subscribers in Santiago, 25 channels, owned by private Argentine interests ; Intercom, 18,000 subscribers in Santiago, 20 channels, owned by the Mercurio publishing group. Also Cable Hogar, 5,000 subscribers. Cost to subscribers, $ 20-$ 25 or less. Another 20 systems around the country are operational, with another 60 set to start up.

BRAZIL

Theatrical attendance 1993: 75 million.

Top ticket price: $ 2.30.

Number of screens: 800.

Film exhib quota for Brazilian pix: 28 days per year.

Biggest indie distribs/exhibs: Ribeiro/Marcondes, Arte Filmes/F. Lucas, Paris Filmes.

TV: Major webs: Rede Globo (about 65% of the market), TV Manchete, SBT (Silvio Santos), Bandeirantes, Record.

Spot ad billings in Brazil, ’93: $ 800 million.

Cable: Two major players: TVA (Abril group, with minority share by the Richmond group), based in Sao Paulo, Rio, Curitiba, Brasilia; TVA programs and also owns the systems. Globo, 49 systems owned by Sao Paulo-based subsid Netbrasil, of which 23 operating. Programming in Rio by Globosat, 75,000 subs around Brazil, charging $ 32 a month to subscribers for 24 channels. In all, 102 franchises given by the government around Brazil, of which 30 are operating.

Total feevee subscribers 1993: 215,000.

MEXICO

Top ticket price: $ 3.30.

Number of screens: 1,200.

Distribution virtually monopolized by the U.S. majors.

Exhibition: Recently privatized COTSA circuit, 121 screens, of which 80 sold to Cadena Real, linked to Televisa. Other circuits run by Ramirez.

TV: Lion’s share of market is controlled by Televisa, with four channels in the capital, two of which go out as networks to affiliated stations around the country. Televisa is due to start up a third web soon.

Other web is Azteca TV, recently privatized by the government.

Cable: 140 cable systems in Mexico, with more than 1.1 million subscribers. Charge is $ 15 for basic, plus $ 11 for HBO Ole, $ 4 for Cine Latino etc. Estimated 1993 revenue from cable subscribers (66% fees, 34% advertising): $ 50 million.

Biggest operation is Multivision, using MMDS, 300,000 subscribers at end of 1993. Banner airs 16 channels. In ’94, Multivision will also be carrying Cinemax and Discovery. Outfit also programs three of its own channels, and has three PPV channels, with a fourth due shortly.

Second operation is Cablevision (Televisa) with 220,000 subs in Mexico City, 22 channels.

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