While commercial distributors of Latino fare in the U.S. have hit stumbling blocks, L.A.-based nonprofit org Viva Tu Cine! plans to boost its distribution output of Latino pics to 10 to 15 new films this year, making it the largest year-round Latino film program in the country.

Program began in Los Angeles in 2004 and is expanding nationally to New York and other key markets starting May 5.

“Our main focus is not box office results, but rather achieving awareness about Latino film, and creating access to the best films for the Latino community in local theaters,” say founder Joshua Gabel of Casa Nova Films. “The idea is to help grow the Latino film industry organically by activating grassroots channels and smaller investments in traditional media.”

The program plans to bring one firstrun Latino film per month to theaters during the next year.

Org sometimes re-releases pics previously handled by indie distribs, as it did with Sony Pictures Classics’ “Nine Queens” and, more recently, Agustin Diaz Yanes’ “Bendito Infierno” (Don’t Tempt Me) from First Look.

Box office revenues are reinvested in the program, which targets theaters in Latino-dominant neighborhoods.

“We want to collaborate as much as possible with other distributors who are interested in developing the niche,” says Gabel.

Org has had the support of private sponsors including General Motors and AT&T, as well as media support from leading U.S. Hispanic broadcaster Univision.

In New York, Viva Tu Cine! is forming an alliance with another nonprofit Latino distrib, Cinema Tropical, which has released a selection of pics since 2001 and curates special series and retrospectives for theaters, institutions and film fests.

The 12-year old org has a library of more than 30 titles and holds screenings in 12 venues in the U.S. Cinema Tropical is financed by the New York times, the N.Y. State Council on the Arts, the N.Y. City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Org has selected Natalia Almada’s docu “Al Otro Lado” (To the Other Side), a 2004 entry in the Tribeca All Access Connects program, to headline the Cinema Tropical Series at MoMA this month, prior to its broadcast on PBS in August.

Viva Tu Cine! also has started a $10,000 Latino Filmmaker Scholarship, which is meant to encourage study of the visual arts for a student of Hispanic heritage.