Morelia: ‘Desierto’ Marks Full-On Cinepolis Distribucion (EXCLUSIVE)

New Mexican Distributor to release four-to-five Mexican films a year, plus a dozen or so upscale foreign titles

Courtesy of STX Entertainment

MORELIA – Received with enthusiasm at Mexico’s Morelia Fest Sunday, Jonas Cuaron’s “Desierto,” which will bow in Mexico first quarter 2016, will start the full-on operations of Cinepolis Distribucion, a new and potentially weighty addition to Mexico’s distribution sector.

Owned by Cinepolis, the fourth biggest exhibition circuit in the world, and largest outside the U.S, Cinepolis Distribution’s gameplan is to release four-to-five “important” Mexican films a year, and about a dozen-or-so further quality titles from the U.S. and Europe as part of its branding, Miguel Rivera, Cinepolis head of programming, said at Morelia.

Cinepolis Distribucion has bought “High Rise,” from Ben Wheatley, and John Crowley’s “Brooklyn,” with Saoirse Ronan. It is negotiating a couple more Mexican “tentpoles,” Rivera said.

In another move to bulwark the distrib op, Leonardo Cordero, one of Mexico’s most experienced arthouse distrib execs after serving at Canana and ND Mantarraya, has been tapped as Cinepolis Distribucion’s new distribution manager.

Cinepolis Distrucion was formally launched in January. A social action/chase thriller starring Gael Garcia Bernal as a Mexican immigrant hunted by a psychotic American redneck sniper in the Mexico-U.S. border badlands, the film “is the most ambitious production we’ve handled to date,” Rivera said. P&A for the launch will be “large,” he added. Rivera commented: “ ‘Desierto’ can reach all kinds of audiences, we’ll aim for a national launch in Cinepolis theater and those of our rivals.”

Cinepolis Distribucion will seek other high-profile titles, he added. Its launch builds on extraordinary results: 1.6 million tickets sales for “Presumed Guilty,” a 2011 wrongful imprisonment tale; 1.1 million admissions for “De panzazo,” about Mexico’s education system. Both docu-features were distributed pro bono, Rivera said.

In 2014, Cinepolis opened immigration drama-thriller “La jaula de oro,” Diego Quemada-Diez’s Un Certain Regard winner, to $1 million theatrical gross.

“These experiences gave us the confidence and energy to bow a formal distribution operation,” Rivera said.

In 2015, Cinepolis Distribucion has already distributed 15 titles, including four Mexican fiction features, the highest grossing “Archivo 235,” a low-budget horror movie which ran up Pesos 30m million, about $2,5 million by then exchange rates, said Rivera.  Another release: Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado’s Oscar-nominated docu-feature “The Salt of the Earth.”

But Cinepolis wants more. “We want to buy films with commercial punch, diversify in film types, horror, comedy, dramas.”

Cinepolis Distribucion’s formal launch is a push and pull phenom, said Rivera.” ‘Presumed Guilty,’ ‘De panzazo’ and ‘La jaula de oro’ were important, contributing to debate of contemporary social issues.’

“’Desierto’ aims principally to entertain but also talks about subjects which could hardly be more contemporary given the anti-immigrant stance of Republican candidates,” said Rivera.

At the same time, Mexico is the second biggest family film market in the world after the U.S.; “with time, an appetite for quality films has built, boosted by the success of Mexican directors outside Mexico: ‘Birdman’ was a big hit in Mexico, ‘Gravity’ also,” Rivera said.

“We’re looking for films which can make up a lineup which is sufficiently varied to address audience demands. ‘Desierto’ can satisfy a demand.”

Also, big Mexican films can now compete with big U.S. international indie titles.

Cinepolis already operates a distribution company in Central America, Mundo Cine.