Latin American indie distributors are regrouping after suffering losses from the lack of TV support. “Many had leveraged their acquisitions based on their projections from TV revenues, but when the television stations stopped buying, they were caught with their pants down,” says a sales vet. Pan-Latin distribs such as Mexico’s NuVision and Chile’s PWI have either shuttered or scaled down their operations. Given Mexico’s strong theatrical market, Mexican indies dominate the region, followed by two relatively young pan-Latin groups, IDC and Sun Distribution. Argentine-based indies tend to buy rights for South America only (i.e. Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile). While TV sales have picked up again, a weak currency in some territories, piracy and a box office slump in Brazil and Argentina have eroded earnings.
Gussi Artecinema (Mexico)
Toppers: Horacio Altamirano, managing director; Alejandro Lebrija, director
B.O.: $42.6 million
Top pic: “Perfume” ($5 million)
In brief: Shingle has an output deal with New Line and handles indie titles from Weinstein Co.’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” to Overture’s “Traitor.” Among Gussi’s local co-productions is Morelia fest audience prizewinner “Burn the Bridges.” Distrib’s readying a marketing and merchandising blitz for “The Golden Compass.” Established in 1974 in Mexico, the company launched a video arm Stateside in late 2006, which has 350 mostly Latino films in its catalog. In 2008, Gussi will launch U.S. releasing ops with four films.
Toppers: Fernando Perez Gavilan, VP Televisa Estudios; Mineko Mori, director of acquisitions
B.O.: $31.3 million
Top pic: “Km 31” ($10.9 million)
In brief: Televisa’s film arm has swept up with local product this year. Horror pic “Km 31” was the No. 3 all-time local hit, and remake of 1968 screamer “Hasta el viento tiene miedo” looks likely to score big this fall. Set to begin co-producing with Lionsgate in 2008. Also focusing on toon pickups such as “Igor” and “Planet One.” Videocine acquires major international titles, such as “Halloween,” in partnership with Quality Films, run by general manager Luis Calzada, which releases bigger-budget arthouse fare with known stars on its own.
International Distribution Co. (U.S.)
Topper: Pedro Rodriguez, prexy
B.O.: $12.2 million (to June)
Top pic: “Arthur and the Invisibles” ($2.8 million)
In brief: L.A.-based fledgling joint venture between Summit Entertainment and former NuVision topper Pedro Rodriguez releases 12-16 feature films throughout Latin America for all media through a network of affiliated distributors. Claims to be the only indie that does not buy to resell. Being a U.S. company allows its suppliers to eschew withholding tax deductions, hence more revenue for their pics. Release slate includes “Michael Clayton,” “In the Valley of Elah” and “Tsotsi.”
Sun Distribution Co. (Argentina)
Topper: Diego Halabi, CEO; Tomas Darcyl, president
B.O.: $10 million
Top pic: “Happily N’Ever After” (to July, $3.5 million)
In brief: Released such hits as “Million Dollar Baby,” “21 Grams” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” across the region. Pan-Latin distrib expects to earn box office cume of $40 million this year. Releases average of 14 titles a year, but expects to raise that number to 20 by 2009. Group half-owned by Telefilms’ Sebastian and Tomas Darcyl, who handle TV distribution.
Distribution Co. (Argentina)
Toppers: Bernardo Zupnik, president; Paula Zupnik, director
B.O.: $7.5 million
Top pic: “XXY” ($590,000)
In brief: Pioneering indie distrib in Argentina releases an average 35 pics a year, mainly sourced from New Line and Europe. Also a champion of local pics, releasing some of the biggest hits in Argentina, including “Hijo de la Novia,” “Familia Rodante” and Berlin ‘07 Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix winner “El otro.”
Alfa Films (Argentina)
Toppers: Hugo Kusnet, president; Margarita Kusnet, general manager
B.O.: $4.9 million
Top pic: “The Lives of Others” ($1.1 million)
In brief: Releases as many as 20 pics a year from a diversity of countries, especially Europe. Has distributed various Oscar-winning pics including “The Pianist,” “No Man’s Land” and “Nowhere in Africa.”
Note: 2007 B.O. through Sept. 30 unless noted otherwise