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Mexican Movies Show Broader Success in 2014

Bereft of local blockbusters, total Mexican B.O. edged down to 11.25 billion pesos ($725.3 million) last year

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Mexican films held onto double-digit market share in 2014, taking 10% of ticket purchases, with eight local films selling more than a million tickets each.

Mexico’s box office pulled in a total of 11.237 billion pesos ($725.3 million) in 2014, 5% down from the 11.860 billion pesos ($765.6 million, in current currency terms) taken in 2013 when Mexico’s market share hit 12%, ignited by heartwarmers “We Are the Nobles” and the very boffo “Instructions Not Included,” which together represented 22 million of the 30 million tickets sold that year.

Last year’s s bottom line was that it showed broader success for Mexico’s industry, if local fare lacked box office breakout smashes.

Last year’s top domestic grosser was Luis Estrada’s politically charged dark comedy “The Perfect Dictatorship,” which bowed in October to win 189.2 million pesos ($12.2 million), putting it at No. 4 in the all-time take for a Mexican film, with runner-up Marco Polo Constandse’s romcom “Marry If You Can” reaching the No. 6 spot with 168.3 million pesos ($10.9 million).

Speaking at the presentation of the 2014 film industry stat almanac at the Guadalajara Festival, which kicked off Friday, Jorge Sanchez, the head of Mexico’s Imcine film institute, hailed the recent success in expanding production, with 130 films produced in 2014, up from 126 in 2013, a tally beaten only once by the 135 films made here in 1959 — toward the close of Mexico’s so-called “Golden Age.”

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A panel Sunday credited cheaper technology for helping driving average production costs down to $1.5 million per pic last year, the lowest pricetag in five years.

Despite the higher number of productions, the average number of tickets sold for Mexican films rose to 352,000 viewers per picture from 298,000 in 2013, a 20% increase. The average ticket price hit 47 pesos in 2014, about $3 a pop.

“No doubt about it, this is a good moment for Mexican cinema,” said Sanchez. “We are taking advantage of digital platforms, but we can’t put aside our duty to produce films,” he added, observing that as a subsidized industry it is the responsibility of filmmakers and producers to offer a quality return on the taxpayers’ investment.

“But above all, we must resolve the problem of accessibility,” added Sanchez, urging legislative action to force distribs and exhibs to offer improved rollouts for Mexican fare, without offering specifics.

The number of releases in 2014 fell to 68 from 101 in 2013 – which explains the higher average box office of titles — as exhibs and distribs shied from betting on domestic fare.

Sanchez lamented the lack of access to Mexican films for many here, pointing to the industry’s inability to bring quality product to commercial release, or, once on the calendar, lacking funds for P & A, citing Ernesto Contreras’ “Las Oscuras Primaveras” (The Dark Springs) and its failure to gain an audience as “truly criminal.”

While 54% of Mexican releases lacked a paid media rollout in 2013, 62% lacked a major media campaign in 2014 — relying mostly on social media to get word-of-mouth rolling.

Sanchez’s career as Imcine prexy has been marked by efforts to integrate Mexican films into the nation’s educational system, and at the panel Sunday, he told a packed press room that CinemaMexico, a program bringing Mexican films to public libraries with a 180-pic domestic canon, will expand from its pilot program in Michoacan state — home to Morelia — to seven states.

He also offered a preview for Filmin Latino (http://www.filminlatino.mx), a joint venture between Imcine and Spanish Internet-based content platform Filmin, to be formally announced April 21,  set to bring nearly 800 films — mostly from Mexico and Spain — to online auds.

The almanac offered a few key insights in the local production-distribution market:

*Talent is deeper; for the first time in five years there were more second- and third-projects than first-time efforts.

*Small players are feeling an expanded arthouse market, with alt-circuit “cineclubes” growing to 380 in 2014 from 300 nationwide year-to-year.

* Mexico’s Oscar entry, and the second highest-grossing foreign-language movie in the U.S. last year, ”Cantinflas” (pictured) had the broadest digital platform rollout of any film in Mexican history.

*Mexico has expanded from 10 film festivals in 2000 to 100

With mega-conglom Televisa recently announcing it has passed the 10-million-feevee-subscriber mark, it’s welcome news to see Mexican fare blowing up on the smallscreen.

Co-productions grew in scope and size in 2014, in total 26 or 20% of all prods last year, up 5 percentage points from 2013, with ties to 19 countries — 10 projects had three or more nations’ backing.

Of the 5,780 films screening on terrestrial networks, 29% were Mexican. Guadalajara-native Patricia Riggen’s “Under the Same Moon” won top viewership for any film last year, hitting 4.49 million in the audience. On average, domestic viewers watched seven Mexican films on over-the-air TV in 2014.

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