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Topper out at Maya

L.A.-based Latino producer-distrib facing money woes

A shakeup is under way at L.A.-based Maya Entertainment, the multiplatform content distribution company aimed at English and Spanish-language markets.

Chairman-CEO Moctesuma Esparza has stepped down while co-chairman Jeff Valdez has been appointed prexy and will take over day-to-day operations.

Valdez, along with senior VP of operations Sergio Aguero, will focus on repositioning the cash-strapped company for the digital arena. Esparza remains a member of the board.

Valdez is founder of English-language Latino network SiTV, now known as nuvoTV.

Launched in February 2008 and touted as the only all-Latino vertically integrated company, Maya has fallen victim to the vagaries of a weak domestic theatrical and homevideo market.

“We’ll be refocusing our efforts on the digital marketplace and downsizing our home entertainment division,” said Valdez. “We will continue to produce films and release some theatrically on a case-by-case basis.”

Exec also plans to bolster Maya’s growing international sales efforts.

A slate of underperforming titles has not helped Maya’s bottom line. One of its latest theatrical releases, helmer Gabriela Tagliavini “Without Men,” starring Eva Longoria and Christian Slater, fizzled at the box office after its June 29 release.

Sister company Maya Cinemas initially announced the construction of 100 screens but has only managed to erect 30 in its Salinas and Bakersfield megaplexes. Esparza will continue to oversee Maya Cinemas.

It was hoped that Maya’s vertical integration would help it avoid the fate of past Latino distribs — including Televisa Cine, Latin Universe, Arenas Entertainment — that faltered in their attempts to break into the elusive U.S. Latino market.

All eyes are now on Lionsgate-Televisa joint venture Pantelion, which has a Will Ferrell Spanish-language comedy, “La Casa de mi padre,” set to bow in March.

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