Indie market remains underdeveloped in Mexico

Pre-buy prices up from recent years

MEXICO CITY — The presale market remains flat in Mexico. Then again, it never really took off to the degree it did in other territories, says Luis Calzada, CEO of Quality Films, one of four main local indie distribs.

Quality — which competes for indie pic market share with distribs such as Nuvision, Gussi and Macondo — acquires around 100 mainly European features a year. About 70 go straight to video, while some 20 get a theatrical release on up to 25 screens via label Arthaus.

In keeping with recent years, Quality will pre-buy just four films this year, including “Nathalie X,” in a single package from Estudio Canal Plus.

“There is enough good product around for us not to have to take risks on pre-buys,” says Calzada. “And besides, the prices are too high. (Sellers) are trying to recoup the sales they have lost from Argentina in Mexico.”

On average, prices paid for Mexican rights to indie fare come to around 1% of pic budgets, sometimes going up to 1.5%. Unlike in most other territories, this represents a rise in prices: In 2000 minimum guarantees were closer to 0.7% of budgets, say local sources.

Studio pics can command higher percentages. The Mexican market is ranked sixth worldwide in terms of the grosses for studio films, but the indie market is relatively underdeveloped and likely doesn’t crack the top 10.

Thanks to DVD, retail sales are just starting to pick up in Mexico, where the huge black market has prevented most growth in legitimate sales.

And while cablers and more minor terrestrial TV outlets (such as Channels 11 and 22) buy some indie fare at low prices, the big broadcasters, Televisa and TV Azteca, often don’t bother.

“TV sales are getting tougher. They cherry pick,” reports Calzada.