MEXICO CITY – Mexico has seen some big international successes over the past few years, but will need more investment to keep up the momentum, according to industry insiders.
As the fourth-largest movie territory in the world outside the U.S., Mexico should be able to rake in millions from homegrown movies like “Instructions Not Included,” the Eugenio Derbez comedy that was a big international hit 2013.
Moviegoing is booming in the increasingly wealthy country, though much of the $408 million in grosses in the frist half of 2016 has come from Hollywood titles, with “Captain America: Civil War” and “Batman v Superman” leading the pack.
Mexican movies such as family comedy “Que Culpa Tiene el Nino” (It’s Not the Child’s Fault) helped the total from local films to rise 30 percent for a total $30 million from January to June.
The production is likely to surpass riches-to-rags tale “Nosotros Los Nobles” (The Noble Family) as the second-highest grossing movie in Mexican history, according to industry observers.
According to Agustin Torres, general manager of top industry trade lobby Canacine, revenues are projected to grow eight to 10 percent annually to nearly $1 billion by 2019 as hundreds of cinemas open annually, attendance grows and ticket prices fall or remain stable amid rising competition.
In the first half of 2016, revenues grew 6 percent.
“The industry is opening 300 cinemas a year and the economy is stable,” Torres said, adding that leading exhibitors Cinepolis, Cinemex and Cinebox will open most of the new venues.
Within three years, Mexican films could potentially account for up to 15 percent of the market compared to five percent currently, Torres added, boosted by rising government subsidies to help lift production spending and quality.
Torres said Mexico’s film industry churned out 140 films last year, surpassing the 138 produced at the peak of the Golden Years, adding that the industry is witnessing a similar renaissance.
But Mexico’s film industry will need to raise investment by at least $300 milllion annually – six times more than in 2015 — to equal or surpass those years when stars such as Cantinflas, Joaquin Pardave or Pedro Infante boosted its Latin American lead and international profile.
Mexico last year invested $53.4 million in the industry, up 10 percent form 2014, thanks to increased tax breaks and various state support programs.
But Pedro Araneda, director of Mexico’s independent filmmakers’ association AMCI, said that’s not enough to encourage Mexicans to watch more local films and fewer Hollywood blockbusters.
“The government needs to increase investment by at least six times to internationalize the industry and develop international stars, which can costs millions,” Araneda said. Mexican producers should also make “more bankable” and diverse movies that go beyond targeting Hispanics, have a bigger budget and improve on visual effects, he added.
During the Golden Years or “Epoca de Oro” in the ’40s and ’50s, audiences “went to see Mexican stars, they liked the films and we exported them,” he said.
Juan Carlos Dominguez, research coordinator at Mexico’s Film Institute Imcine, said Mexican film has reached “a new golden era” and that producers are striking a chord with Mexican viewers, making comedies that are strongly relatable to every day life.
Derbez’s family comedy was Mexico’s top-grossing local film and was a crossover success, pocketing some $100 million worldwide.
Imcine’s Fidecine and Foprocine funds, which support independent film makers, are raising their support while Mexico City is also looking for ways to grow Mexicans’ interest in homegrown movies, recently launching discount coupons, said Dominguez.
Imcine, which is run by the government, will also roll out a program called Cine en Tu Comunidad (Film in your community) next year, hosting open-air movie events. That plan is in addition to Mexico Cinema Week and Mexico’s Movie Week, which also promote local movies in small towns and cities, bringing their actors and directors to interact with citizens.
(pictured: “Que Culpa Tiene el Nino”)