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BVHE jumps to Viva for Filipino distrib’n

Future animated pix to be released in Tagalog

MANILA — Aiming to expand its share of a growing homevideo market, Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment is switching distributors in the Philippines, inking a three-year exclusive deal with the Viva Entertainment Group.

The pact, which replaces an earlier arrangement with Magnavision, was announced Friday in Manila by Tim Sullivan, VP and managing director, BVHE Asia/Pacific.

“The Philippines is one of the few Asian countries that is developing a strong rental market,” Martha Van Gelder, BVHE exec director of licensed territories, told Daily Variety.

She said two retail chains — Viva’s Video City and another called ACA — are spearheading the drive to boost the rental sector, and she sees a lot of potential to enlarge the sell-through business, which has largely been confined to Metro Manila.

Piracy is fairly widespread in the Philippines; among the worst offenders are cable stations that air unlicensed films.

Viva Group chairman Vic del Rosario Jr. heads the official Anti-Piracy Council and is working on various measures to thwart the pirates.

Only an estimated 19% of homes in the Philippines has a VCR or laserdisc player — a hardware base that can be grown considerably, Van Gelder believes.

Viva, which has set up a dedicated Disney division to handle sales and marketing, is releasing “Face/Off” and “George of the Jungle” on rental this month, followed in April by “Air Force One.” All films initially will be released in English, but future animated family films may be dubbed in Tagalog.

“We have been trying to get the (BVHE) catalog for two years. Luckily for us, Disney is looking for new ways to sell its product,” del Rosario said.

The country’s largest entertainment conglom, Viva’s businesses include film and TV production, film and video distribution, talent management, music publishing and cinema management.

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