‘Law’ courts U.S. auds

Pic to be released on 14 screens in L.A.

MIAMI — Venevision Intl. has launched Luis Estrada’s “Herod’s Law,” a broad satire of Mexican politics, at the Landmark Regent in Los Angeles.

Pic was a hit in its native Mexico, first gaining notoriety in late 1999 in the wake of attempted censorship by authorities before it went on to gross a robust $3.8 million at the local box office in 2000 — and snagging best Iberoamerican film at Sundance that same year.

Miami-based distrib/production company Venevision Intl. (VVI) will then expand the release to 14 screens in Los Angeles, with openings on Friday skedded for other U.S. cities, such as Miami.

For its initial forays into the theatrical distrib biz, VVI tested the waters in South Florida. To date, its releases — all Spanish-lingo productions — have remained small, with a limited number of copies in just a few key cities.

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“Herod’s Law” will be released later this year on video/DVD, part of VVI’s efforts to bring more Spanish-lingo films to consumers in the U.S.

Also upcoming on video/DVD from VVI are Fernando Sarinana’s Mexican urban drama “Todo el Poder” (Gimme Power), which screened in Los Angeles and Chicago earlier in 2003, and Francisco Lombardi’s “Pantaleon y las Visitadoras” (“Captain Pantoja and the Special Service”), based on the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa. VVI screened it in L.A. last year.

To date, VVI has released 18 titles on video/DVD, including Lombardi’s “Red Ink,” from Peru, and Mateo Gil’s “No One Knows Anyone” and Alvaro Fernandez Morero’s “El Arte de Morir,” both from Spain.

The company said it has distribution in chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, and that several mass merchandisers, such as Best Buy and Target, are testing the category.