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Chavez leads Lionsgate’s Latino push

Exec was head of Studio Latino

In its bid to increase its share of the U.S. Latino marketplace, Lionsgate has tapped homevid vet Arturo Chavez to serve as director of Spanish-language programming.

Chavez was head of Studio Latino, the Spanish-language division of leading home entertainment distrib Ventura Distribution, whose assets First Look Studios acquired for $16.5 million in March.

Chavez will oversee Lionsgate’s Latino initiatives, including its co-production and distribution deal with Jim McNamara’s Panamax Films, which calls for six to eight pics per year.

Fledgling pact debuted in mid-April with the release of romantic comedy “La mujer de mi hermano,” starring telenovela star Barbara Mori. Pic, which grossed $2.8 million, opened on about 200 screens in nearly 20 markets — one of the largest openings for a Spanish-language film aimed at U.S. Latino auds.

Chavez also bring his 20-year experience to bear on Lionsgate’s distribution of Spanish-language home entertainment.

At its peak, Ventura Distribution had a 30% share of the Spanish homevid market; Lionsgate currently has a 6% share, Chavez said.

“We hope to increase Lionsgate’s share of the Latino home entertainment marketplace by signing with a series of strategic partners,” he continued.

To that end, Lionsgate has reupped its pact with Venezuela’s Venevision to release 12 of its direct-to-video titles per year. It also has inked with Univision’s homevid label, Unicine, to distribute its direct-to-video titles, a task once undertaken by Studio Latino.

Lionsgate is close to signing a homevideo distribution deal with a prominent Mexican entertainment company.

As the senior member of Studio Latino’s core team, Chavez played a key role in developing the company’s overall Latino strategy and positioning, including the division’s product development, product management and release schedule planning.

Before Studio Latino, he spent 14 years as a senior analyst at Mexcinema Video, an independent video publisher catering to Spanish-language accounts in the U.S.

Chavez will be based in Lionsgate’s Santa Monica office, reporting to Ron Schwartz, exec VP, North American sales.

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