Reflecting just how far IFF Panama has come in four years, the festival’s closing film, “Whiplash,” marks the first time one of the major studios has chosen to use the festival as a launch platform for a release. The company in question is 20th Century Fox Central America, which handles Sony Pictures in the region.
The general manager of 20th Century Fox Central America, Renato d’Angelo, was one of an all-star cast assembled by the festival to discuss distribution in Central America and the Caribbean with filmmakers and festival guests.
Other panelists included Elba McAllister, co-founder of Colombia’s Cineplex; Jose Pepe Victoria, general manager of Vista Entertainment, which controls the Central American and Caribbean distribution rights to Walt Disney’s theatrical division; Luis Carcheri of Costa Rica’s Romaly Distribution, which in Costa Rice represents Paramount, Universal, Walt Disney, Cineplex Colombia, Ablo, Sun Productions and Weisner; and Miguel Joseph, general manager for UIP, which is the distributor in Central America for Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros.
For these major players it emerged that their three biggest markets regionally are currently Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala. In terms of genre, the big three across the region remain comedy, family and action. As in much of the rest of the world, however, demand for 3D is on the decline across Central America.
The panel advised the assembled filmmakers that, even if they were dealing with domestic arthouse product, they must have a solid marketing plan in place early to attract a paying audience, and recommended that local partners, be it media or sponsors, be sourced in advance. They also emphasized the importance and possible rewards from merchandising opportunities.
The panel recognized that there can be space and screen time, even in the multiplexes, for the right domestic titles and highlighted the very positive box office results achieved by the domestic comedies “Maikol Yordan” (a film which received its international premier during the festival) in Costa Rica and “Chance” in Panama. They also noted that Damian Szifron’s Argentine comedy “Wild Tales” (“Relatos salvajes”) has been performing solidly across the region.
According to Rentrak, the 10 top-grossing films in Central America in 2014 were “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” “Rio 2,” “Maleficent,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” “X Men: Days of Future Past,” “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and “Guardians of the Galaxy.”