Brazilian B.O. could backslide

Overall ticket sales up 13%

RIO DE JANEIRO — After a boffo B.O. performance in 2003, the big question in Brazil is whether the local film industry will be able to hold on to its gains.

Total admissions to local productions climbed to 22 million tickets in 2003, up 205% over 2002 — seemingly at the expense of imported pics.

Overall ticket sales were up just 13% to 102.9 million for the year, with foreign film attendance slipping 4% to 80.9 million.

For the year, local films saw their market share rise to a bang-up 21.4% in 2003 (from just 8% in 2002), its biggest slice of the pie (in terms of admissions) since 1988. But will local pics be able to sustain their performance in 2004?

Most analyst and industry representatives foresee a dip in admissions and market share from 2003 but predict that the numbers will remain well above 2002 results.

Last year saw the release of Hector Babenco’s prison-drama “Carandiru” (4.69 million tickets, grossing $10.21 million), Guel Arraes’ “Lisbela and the Prisoner” (3.15 million tickets, $6.85 million), and Jose Alvarenga Jr.’s “The Regular Ones” (2.95 million tickets, $6.81 million), a comedy based on the hit TV Globo laffer of the same name.

The fundamentals for strong perfs by local pics remain in place. Key factors include better pics; government production incentives; local regs that encourage U.S. studios to co-produce in Brazil; and the substantial investments of media giant Organizacoes Globo in film via its theatrical arm, Globo Filmes — and then publicizing those pics via its various media holdings.

But the slate for 2004 is not seen as having the same B.O. appeal.

“It will be difficult to equal the historical performance of 2003, but we expect a good 2004,” says Paulo Sergio Almeida, president of local research firm Filme B.

Almeida estimates Brazilian pics will sell 17 million to 20 million tickets this year, down from 22 million last year.

The local pics’ market share will shrink a bit more to 14% to 16%, from 21.4%, as result of the total market growth to about 120 million tickets, from 102.9 million last year, he predicts, with the growth driven by foreign pics.

Orlando Senna, the national audiovisual secretary, estimates a market share of 15% to 17% for the Brazilian pics in 2004, a performance he says is satisfactory.

“2004 will be even better than last year because it will consolidate the conditions for the local film industry’s sustainable growth,” Senna says. “We are particularly concerned in helping productions of intermediate size.”

In line with that, the state-controlled oil giant Petrobras recently issued a U.S. $1.65 million package of incentives to fund the distribution of 19 local pics — ones that were not picked up for distribution by a U.S. major or that have media support afforded by a Globo Filmes connection.

Even so, the year has gotten off to a promising start: Jorge Fernandes’ “Sex, Love, and Betrayal,” a Total Filmes production distributed by Fox, bowed Jan. 1 and sold more than 1 million tickets in its first two weeks in theaters. The pic is a remake of the 1999 Mexican hit “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas,” directed by Antonio Serrano (“La Hija del Canibal”).

Some of the local pics with stronger B.O. prospects this year:

  • Moacyr Goes’ “A Summer Show”, a musical romantic comedy staring TV host/teen star Angelica, which Warner will open Jan. 23;

  • vet director Anibal Massani’s “Pele, the Myth,” a docudrama about the life of soccer legend Pele that UIP will distrib;

  • Globo Filmes-backed Jayme Monjardim’s “Olga,” an epic biography of political activist Olga Benario Prestes;

  • Sandra Werneck’s “Cazuza,” a biopic of the local pop star that is also a Globo Filmes’ project;

  • and Goes’ religious-themed “The Apostles,” a Columbia release.

Two kidpics, one starring vet comedian Renato Aragao (Columbia distribution) and the other personality/singer Xuxa Meneghel (Warner distribution), are also expected to attract crowds.

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