RIO DE JANEIRO — The heyday for the local indie film distributors in Brazil seems to be over, as DVD rentals have sharply decreased and the theatrical market remains flat.

One of the few bright spots was a small comedy, “A casa da Mae Joana,” which sold 310,000 tickets in three weeks via distrib Imagem.

Meanwhile, DVD rentals have decreased 60% in the past 12 months, according to Otelo Bettin Coltro, exec VP of distrib PlayArte.

PlayArte leads the local indie distribs, with 36 million movie tickets sold through September, followed by Imagem with 31 million, Paris with 18 million and Europa with 9 million. Downtown, which distributes Brazilian pics only, sold 18.3 million tickets in association with Sony.

As PlayArte’s output deal with New Line gradually comes to an end, Coltro says his company has a bigger budget to pick up titles at markets.

But PlayArte is an isolated case, as the other indie distribs are likely to reduce purchases at AFM. The uncertainties of the global financial crisis have caused the Brazilian real’s value to dip in recent months, making pic imports more expensive for local distribs.

Europa’s general director, Wilson Feitosa, who’s headed for AFM, is concerned about the state of Brazil’s indie biz but expects his company to benefit from new VOD services to be launched in the country in the first half of 2009.

A new distrib called Moviemobz launched in July. It handles traditional theatrical releases and also introduced the cinema-on-demand business model, in which groups of moviegoers can schedule their own screenings through Moviemobz’s website. The company so far has held about 60 such mobilized screenings in 18 local towns. The screenings take place in theaters with digital capability supplied by local company Rain Network, owned by Moviemobz CEO Fabio Lima and his partner Jose Eduardo Ferrao.

2008 B.O.

$225 million (through June)

Top title

“The Dark Knight” ($16 million)

Recent pickups

“Che” (Europa)

“Game” (Imagem)

“Garfield’s Fun Fest” (PlayArte)

“Katyn” (Moviemobz)

“Twilight” (Paris)