Indie distribs are suffering with the slow overall theatrical market that has failed to grow, despite a combination of positive factors, such as a heated economy, the expansion of the exhib circuit and the availability of potentially strong Hollywood and local pics. To make matters worst, says Paris Filmes’ CEO Marcio Fraccaroli, the DVD market boom is over, as piracy is affecting rental, and the sell-through business is saturated. “I expect some independent distributors to close. These are companies created during the DVD market expansion that lasted until the end of last year,” Fraccaroli adds. “Films rights’ prices to Brazil increased during the expansion. We are now renegotiating our agreements.” On the positive side, the local currency continues to appreciate in relation to the U.S. dollar, which helps increase the companies’ purchasing power. In the past 12 months, the dollar devaluated about 16% in relation to the real.

Europa Filmes
Matteo Levi, Wilson Feitosa, co-CEOs
B.O.: $14.3 million (4.73% market share)
Top pic: “Big Family” (Brazilian)
In brief: Europa, founded in 1990, fights with PlayArte for the country’s indie theatrical distribution leadership. The company has been particularly aggressive since vet Marco Aurelio Marcondes became its theatrical director in 2003. It distributes films from indie Oscar winners, such as “Million Dollar Baby,” to arthouse features, Asian horror pics and local productions. Last year, it invested in the production of two local features. The second one, Mauricio Farias’ “Big Family,” is the highest-grossing local pic this year. Upcoming releases include Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and Olivier Dahan’s “La Vie en rose.”

PlayArte Pictures
Otelo Betin Coltro, exec VP
B.O.: $10.5 million (3.47%)
Top pic: “Rush Hour 3”
In brief: Coltro family-owned PlayArte is one of the top two indie distribs in Brazil. The company focuses on commercial pics. It has a partnership with New Line. The company owns a 42-screen exhibition circuit in Sao Paulo, the country’s wealthiest and most populous city, which represents a competitive advantage in underscreened Brazil. Chris Weitz’s “The Golden Compass” and David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” are the top upcoming releases.

Imagem Filmes
Abrao Scherer, CEO
B.O.: $9.3 million (3.09%)
Top pic: “Bridge to Terabithia”
In brief: Imagem was the third-ranked indie distrib in Brazil last year. The company has managed to keep this position so far this year, and is close to No. 2 distrib Europa. It traditionally distributes arthouse pics, but is gradually incorporating some commercial productions to its portfolio. The next top releases are Zach Helm’s “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” Mikael Hafstrom’s “1408,” and Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton.”

Paris Filmes
Marcio Fraccaroli, CEO
B.O.: $5.9 million (1.94%)
Top pics: “Premonition,” “TMNT”
In brief: The country’s most traditional indie distrib is increasingly active in international markets since Fraccaroli returned to the company in 2004. Paris Filmes focuses on English-language, commercial pics for theatrical distribution. Paris has the competitive advantage of owning an exhibition circuit with 47 screens. Top upcoming releases include Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah” and Richard LaGravenese’s “P.S., I Love You.”

California Filmes
Vladimir Fernandes, prexy; Claiton Fernandes, VP
B.O.: $3.4 million (1.12%)
Top pic: “Scoop”
In brief: California is mainly an arthouse distrib. Last year, it started to buy commercial pics also. Werner Herzog’s “Rescue Dawn” and James Gray’s “We Own the Night” are the main upcoming releases.

Downtown Filmes
Bruno Wainer, General Director
B.O.: $3.3 million (1.09%)
Top pic: “Because I Said So”
In brief: When once-indie-distribution market leader Lumiere halted its operations due to a shareholder feud, partner Bruno Wainer founded Downtown in 2005. The company is increasingly focusing on the distribution of Brazilian pics. Milos Forman’s “Goya’s Ghosts” and local Mauro Lima’s “My Name Ain’t Johnny” are the main upcoming releases.

Note: 2007 B.O. through Oct. 3

Source: Nielsen EDI