Brazil’s economic boom is encouraging local producers to focus on their home market, and Brazilian auds seem to be in the mood to laugh.

This year’s local box office champs are two comedies: Roberto Santucci’s “De pernas para o ar” (Upside Down) grossed 31.5 million reais ($19.8 million) and Jose Alvarenga Junior’s “Cilada.com,” currently in release, has grossed $17.6 million. Claudio Torres’ romantic comedy “O homem do futuro,” released Sept. 2 by Paramount, is also expected to work its way up on the ranking.

Capitalizing on the laugh tracks, “Upside Down” producer Morena and co-producers and co-distribs Paris and RioFilme have announced a sequel. Santucci will lense “Upside Down 2” in the first half of 2012 and pic is due to open in the beginning of 2013.

“For the past years, we had a trend of religious-themed dramas, such as ‘Chico Xavier’ and ‘Our Home.’ I think this is over, and now we are undergoing a comedy trend. Everybody wants to make popular comedies,” Santucci says.

Before the sequel, the helmer will lense this year another comedy tentatively titled “Casais inteligentes enriquecem juntos,” which marks arthouse shingle Gullane’s entry into the mainstream comedy arena. Paris will co-produce and distribute the pic.

Production company Case has announced the sequel of “Cilada.com,” set to open in 2014. It will also produce the sequel to comedy “Muita calma nessa hora,” set to be released in 2013; first pic grossed $7 million and was the most successful comedy release in 2010. Both projects will be co-produced and co-distributed by local Downtown and Paris.

Total Filmes, which has been in the comedy business since 2002, will produce the third pic of the highly successful “If I Were You” franchise, says company’s general director Walkiria Barbosa. Fox will co-produce and distribute the pic, which is due to open in the local 2012-13 summer vacations. Total will also make the sequel of comedy “Diva,” which held the fourth position on the local pics’ 2009 B.O. ranking.

Aside from sequels, several other comedy projects with commercial potential are on the works. Helmer Rodrigo Bittencourt’s “Totalmente inocentes,” a parody of drama/action pics set in Brazilian favelas and produced by Atitude Producoes and Migdal, is due to be released by Paris and RioFilme in the second half of 2012.

Case will make Felipe Joffily’s “E ai, comeu?,” based in the Marcelo Rubens Paiva’s play, which will be co-produced and co-distributed by Paris and RioFilme and is due to open in July.

Tambellini is backing Victor Lopes’ “Agamenon,” a co-production and co-distribution of Paris, RioFilme and Globo Filmes.

MPC will produce Calvito Leal’s “A Esperanca e a ultima que morre,” which will be co-produced and co-distributed by Downtown and RioFilme and is pointed for a July 2013 release.

“I decided a few years ago to invest in Brazilian feature productions, because I believe they will eventually have a share of about 25% of the total theatrical market,” says Marcio Fraccaroli, general director of Paris. “I am interested in entertaining films, and my bet is on comedies.”

South’s good news | Producers laughing all the way to the bank | Export appeal