Panama once again recorded the fastest-growing box office in Central America in 2017, driven by the opening of new multiplexes, and some of the region’s biggest local hits.
Central America consolidated its region-wide box office growth in 2017 with 3% growth, again due primarily to new theater openings, but the exponential growth curve recorded since 2012 now seems to be plateau-ing.
Total box office for the region in 2017 was $144.34 million – 50% higher than in 2012, but growth in 2017 was lower than in previous years, such as an 8.3% growth in 2016.
Unlike some Latin American countries, where inflation is rampant, Central America maintains very low inflation rates, rising prosperity, and an increasingly stable middle class, which has fueled cinema-going habits.
15 new cinema theaters, with a total of 69 screens, bowed in the region in 2017. Almost half of the news screens opened in Panama, with six new cinemas, and 31 screens. Guatemala saw four new cinemas, with 18 screens, and Costa Rica two new cinemas, with 11 screens.
According to Luis Vargas, comScore’s managing director for Latin America, the fastest-growing market was once again Panama, with 10.1% revenue growth, compared to 16.2% growth in 2016. The slowest growing markets were Costa Rica, which recorded a 3% drop in box-office revenue, and El Salvador with 0.05% growth in admissions.
U.S. blockbusters once again dominated the region’s box office. The top three titles were “F8: The Fate of the Furious” – with 1.84 million admissions and $ 9.0 million box-office – followed by “Justice League” and “Despicable Me 3.” These three titles delivered over 14.5% of the region’s total box office.
Imax films reversed the decline recorded in 2016, driven by a slightly higher number of films released (33) – clocking up 3.7% growth in box-office and 8.2% growth in admissions.
Costa Rica had the highest number of local films released (14) and Panama had the local hits with the highest admissions. Arianne M. Benedetti’s “Mas Que Hermanos” (Beyond Brotherhood), Panama’s official entry to the 2018 Academy Awards, was the biggest-selling local film in the region, with 85,563 admissions.
The brother-sister survival story starred Eric Roberts – elder brother of Julia and Lisa Roberts – and Colombian actress Valeria Domínguez, star of TV series “Los caballeros las prefieren brutas.” 70% of the pic was lensed in Panama City’s original old town, the Casco Antiguo.
Both director Benedetti and producer Regina Barletta studied and worked in the U.S. Benedetti is former Panama Film Commissioner and played a key role in creating the Film Law of Panama and the Cinema Fund to support national productions.
“Beyond Brotherhood” took almost 20 years to be produced, but is now ranked as Panama’s 2nd biggest all-time hit.
Arturo Montenegro’s Carnival-set romcom, “Grace and Splendor” was Panama’s second biggest local hit in 2017, with 81,609 admissions, having received a $500,000 grant from the National Cinema Fund in 2016.
In Costa Rica, the top-selling local film was Miguel Gomez’s $200,000 travel romantic comedy, “Amor viajero”, with 54,000 admissions. Gomez is one of the most successful directors in his native Costa Rica. In February 2018, Sony Pictures Entertainment bought the distribution rights to “Amor viajero”, with plans to release the pic in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil.
Costa Rican comedies have enjoyed success in their local market over recent years, including 2015 hit “Maikol Yordan: Traveling Lost,” and Hernán Jiménez’s 2016 romcom, “Entonces Nosotros” (About Us).
The second biggest local hit in Costa Rica in 2017, with 42,793 admissions, was the docu “Keylor Navas, a Man of Faith” about the country’s most successful footballer, Keylor Navas, goalkeeper for the elite Spanish soccer club, Real Madrid.
El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua had few local hits. Honduras consolidated its local industry with the historical drama Morazan, directed by Hispano Durón, which recorded 50,142 admissions and was the first film submitted by Honduras for consideration in the for foreign-language category of the 90th Academy Awards.
Other local hits in Honduras in 2017 included Joshé Villanueva’s comedy, “Pocos Sueltos y Locos”, which punched 38,427 admissions, following in the wake of his 2016 hit, “Historia de Heroes”. Boris Lara’s teen drama, based on Ramón Amaya’s novel “Cipotes,” recorded 37,747 admissions.