MORELIA, Mexico – There’s a new arthouse player in town. Cinepolis, one of the top exhibitors in the world, is launching a new arthouse film distribution unit in Mexico called Sala de Arte Distribucion.

Focusing on auteur films that have premiered at leading film festivals worldwide, Sala de Arte launches in December with “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho’s Palme d’Or-winning dark comedy. South Korea’s submission to the Academy Awards in the Best International Feature category, “Parasite” has crushed specialty box office records and received glowing reviews in the U.S. since its October release by Neon, while also selling nearly 1.7 million tickets in France via The Jokers.

The launch of Sala de Arte comes five years after the exhibitor launched Cinepolis Distribución, the company’s main distribution division, which has released more than 75 titles. Leo Cordero, who runs Cinepolis Distribucion, will also oversee the arthouse division.

“Just like we did with Cinépolis Distribución whose mission is to promote and represent Mexican films that have the potential to connect with audiences, with Sala de Arte Distribución we want to contribute to the formation of audiences and the promotion of culture by distributing some of the films that are recognized in festivals around the world, and that have the potential to reach a wider audience” said Miguel Rivera, Cinépolis global VP of programming and content.

With the objective of releasing an average of 8 to 10 films a year, the rest of Sala de Arte Distribucion’s slate includes such festival favorites as Cannes’ best screenplay winner “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” by Céline Sciamma, “Dogman” by Matteo Garrone, “Little Joe” by Jessica Hausner and Pablo Larrain’s “Ema.”

Sala de Arte is up against a handful of art house distributors in Mexico that includes Nueva Era, which has been releasing mainly French films for more than three decades, and is handling the Mexican release of the Dardenne’ brothers “Young Ahmed,” which opened the 17th Morelia Int’l Film Festival (FICM) on Friday, Oct. 18.

Other players include Piano, Corazon Films and Cine Canibal but there have been some casualties along the way. Carlos Reygadas’ Mantarraya Prods. closed down its distribution operations about 18 months ago although it might reopen eventually, said co-founder Jaime Romandia.

Cinépolis Distribución will continue its operations, focusing mainly on Mexican films as well as mainstream international features. Its next release is “Perdida,” a Mexican-Colombian coproduction from Dynamo, marking its debut at this year’s FICM.

Cinépolis is no stranger to distributing festival favorites. In the last five years, it has released titles like “Neruda” by Pablo Larrain, Asghar Farhadi,’s “Everybody Knows,” “Lady Macbeth” from William Oldroyd and, from Mexican auteurs, Amat Escalante’s “The Unatmed” and Julio Hernández Cordon’s “Comprame un Revolver.”

Founded in 1971, the family-owned Cinepolis is the second largest exhibition company in the world in terms of admissions and, as of September 2019, runs 6,451 screens worldwide, including in Latin America, the U.S. India, Spain, Indonesia and the Middle East. The company has also ventured into production, making Manolo Caro’s “Perfectos Desconocidos” last year, and is likely to ramp up production by 2020.