For Chile’s Arthouse Auteurs, the Foreign Market Reigns Supreme

Bursting onto the scene at 2005’s Valdivia Festival, a remarkable generation of young Chilean directors is building that splashy debut into more glory.

Pablo Larrain’s “No” took Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight award in 2012 and then snagged a foreign-language film Oscar nom; vengeance thriller “To Kill a Man,” from Alejandro Fernandez Almendras, won Sundance’s 2014 World Cinema Grand Jury Prize. This February, “Bear Story” snagged the animated short Oscar. Picturing Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda on the run from the police in 1946-48, Larrain’s “Neruda” is already one the 2016 Directors’ Fortnight most anticipated titles.

However, Chile wants more: To leverage fest laurels into substantial foreign market B.O. A pioneering study, “Global Audiences of Chilean Cinema,” to be presented at this year’s Cannes Festival, aims to further this. Focusing on Chilean cinema’s 2013 international box office, it encapsulates fundamental trends, opportunities and challenges now facing most foreign-language cinema worldwide in 2016. Some findings:

» For all the talk of a contracting U.S. arthouse market, the U.S. still rates as one of the world’s largest specialty film markets, and was the biggest for Chile, accounting for 22.6% of the total B.O. of the seven Chilean movies released abroad in 2013.

» Led by Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria,” the seven Chilean movies released abroad in 2013 grossed 2.8 times their national B.O. While Chilean production levels have exploded — from seven releases in Chile in 2003 to 40 in 2014 — their domestic market is modest, at 2.7% in 2014, 3.6% last year.

» Chilean cinema performs better as an exporter of world cinema in general than as a Spanish-language movie industry. For the 2013 releases, more people in Turkey saw Chilean films than in neighboring Argentina.

» Though 2013’s seven Chilean exports boasted succes d’estime — Fernando Guzzoni’s “Dog Flesh,” Dominga Sotomayor’s “Thursday Till Sunday,” Alicia Scherson’s “The Future” — only one, “Gloria” lit an international box office fire, selling 869,665 tickets outside Chile in 2013, 7.5 times the other six movies put together.

» Despite dwindling foreign-language film sales to European pubcasters, Europe, by comparison, repped 62% of box office of the seven titles under study, with Italy (15.8%), France (13.5%) and Germany (10.4%) ranking next as export markets.

Presented in Chile mid-April, the report’s already sparking reactions. Its author, film promo org CinemaChile will make a concerted drive to improve Chilean movies’ penetration in the U.S, says Constanza Arena, CinemaChile exec director.

CinemaChile will establish a Venice Festival presence to consolidate co-production networks, guaranteeing films an Italian theatrical release, she adds.

Above all, the report suggests a paradox. The market for smaller, more intimate foreign-language films has shrunk. “Now films really have to stand out,” recognizes Funny Balloons’ Peter Danner, who sold “Gloria.” In contrast, overseas B.O. for Chilean movies has grown, galvanized by results for “Gloria” ($9.0 million in global revenue, per Rentrak) and 2012’s “No” ($10.3 million), another Funny Balloons title.

Those are weighty results. They also point to a broader phenomenon: a Latin American generation that broke through with edgier or more minimalist dramas now has a clutch of films under its belt, often fest faves and critical raves. It wants to step up into something larger, more mainstream, seeking to reach broader audiences. And they are sourcing the requisite finance to do so.

A five-way international co-production, “Neruda” is also co-financed by Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media.
“No,” about how an ad man helps oust dictator Augusto Pinochet from power, was Participant Media’s first foreign-language investment. “Gloria,” about a late-50s divorcee’s search for love, and “No” were conscious attempts at more open, broad-appeal films.

“Despite having Chilean elements, people connected to the stories through the characters,” Danner says.

“Open movies can ask you to think, but the answers are there in the film,” says “No” and “Gloria” producer, Juan de Dios Larrain at Fabula, citing “Neruda,” which he also produces, as a great example.

Top 10 B.O. Markets for Chilean Film
Seven 2013 titles, including Sebastian Lelio’s “Gloria.” In ticket sales:
$223.7k United States
$156k Italy
$133.5k France
$102.7k Germany
$54.4k Spain
$36k Peru
$29k Turkey
$28k Australia
$26.1k Netherlands
$26k Brazil

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