With the collapse of the homevideo DVD market, local indie distribs are increasingly turning to the distribution of Brazilian pics in order to make ends meet.

The total B.O. in Brazil reached 1.1 billion real ($627 million) in the January-September period, up 19% from the same period last year. But indie distribs have a small slice of this market that is dominated by Hollywood.

Meanwhile, in 2009 the federal government launched the Sector Fund incentive, with one of its aims to stimulate local indie distribs to distribute Brazilian pics. In the 2009-11 time frame, indie distribs have received $34.7 million to buy equity in local pics and distribute them.

“The fall of the DVD market represented a major blow for the distribution of independent films in Brazil,” says Marcio Fraccaroli, general director of local indie distrib Paris Filmes. “As the studios rule the theatrical market, we had to seek an option to survive. Thanks to the Sector Fund, we found that option in the distribution of Brazilian films.”

All top three indies pics in 2011 are Brazilian and were distributed by locals: “De pernas pro ar” (Upside Down), handled jointly by Downtown/Paris distribution; “Cilada.com,” distribbed jointly by Downtown/Paris/RioFilme; and “Bruna Surfistinha” handled jointly by Imagem/RioFilme.

In spite of the unfavorable market, it is still possible to make good money with the distribution of foreign indie pics in Brazil. For instance, Paris, which since 2007 has an output deal with Summit Entertainment, has profited from the three installments of the “Twilight” films. General director Marcio Fraccaroli says Paris Filmes will open “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1” Nov. 18 on 1,100 screens here — the largest theatrical release ever in Brazil. Film was also partially shot in Brazil.

“We plan to sell over 7 million tickets and make ‘Breaking Dawn’ the film with the highest B.O. this year in Brazil. But the ‘Twilight Saga’ is really an exception in this market,” Fraccaroli says.

Meanwhile, several local production companies launched Nossa, an indie distrib with an alternative business model, in October. Nossa will provide distribution services for a fixed fee, and producers will have to cover P&A costs. But, if the release is successful, the producer will pocket the bulk of the gains. Under this model, the producer will hold pics’ rights to other windows.

Nossa was created by helmer Jose Padilha, based on the highly successful distribution of “Elite Squad: The Enemy Within” in 2010, when Padilha’s Zazen shingle hired vet distributor exec Marco Aurelio Marcondes to release the pic, which became highest-grossing Brazilian pic ever.

Number of screens: 2,314
Number of 3D screens: 467
Top indie distribs and B.O. through the first half of 2011: Imagem ($38.4 million); Paris ($20.5 million); Downtown/Paris joint distribution ($15.8 million); Playarte ($6.7 million); Imovision ($3 million)
Typical gross split for theatrical between distribs and exhibs: 50/50
Top exhibition chains for indie films: Espaco de Cinema screens all types of pics, but focuses on foreign and local indie pics. It is Brazil’s fifth largest exhibitor, and has 21 plexes with 90 screens, which represents 4% of the country’s screens. Grupo Estacao has nine multiplexes with 24 screens in Rio.
Top 5 indie films: “De pernas pro ar” (Upside Down), Downtown/Paris ($17.9 million); “Cilada.com,” Downtown/Paris/RioFilme ($16.1 million); “Bruna Surfistinha,” Imagem/RioFilme ($11.4 million); “Gnomeo and Juliet,” Imagem ($7.8 million); “Season of the Witch,” Imagem ($7.7 million)
Upcoming indie pickups: “Under the Hawthorn Tree” (Serendip Filmes/ Art Films): “Sarah’s Key” (Imagem); “The Good Doctor” (Playarte); “Late Bloomers” (Serendip Filmes/Art Films); “The Skin I Live In” (Paris)