Latin American box office to hit $2.1 bil soon

Recent introduction of 3D helped fuel ticket pricing spurt

ORLANDO -- Annual box office in Latin America has almost doubled in the past five years and is on target to reach $2.1 billion this year.

That was the upbeat projection from Jorge Peregrino, Paramount's senior vp distribution for the region. Admissions haven't risen nearly as dramatically -- posting a 28% uptick since 2005 -- but screen expansions and higher ticket prices combined to turbo-charge regional revenue.

Regional ticket prices currently average $4.35, compared with an average $2.91 in 2005. The recent introduction of 3D on 1,400 of the region's 10,400 screens has helped fuel the pricing spurt.

"Business is very strong for the entire region this year," Peregrino told The Hollywood Reporter prior to an opening day presentation at the ShowEast confab here. "The movie line-up has been very strong, and there also have been some good locally produced films, which have helped contribute to the growth. There is no territory that's not showing strong growth this year."

ShowEast attendance by Latin American exhibitors has been on the rise as well for the past few years. The confab's first day is always devoted in part to internationally themed panel discussions, but there's generally a good synergy with the balance of the show.

Indeed, even the domestic theatrical business increasingly focuses on Hispanic moviegoers.

Census data show the U.S.'s 35 million Latinos as the biggest minority -- at 13%, compared to the 12% African-American segment -- and in four states the minorities form a larger bloc than the white population.

"If you're not talking advantage of the growth in the Hispanic market these days, you're really missing out," said Brad Brown, founder of the Brown Entertainment Group product marketing organization and a ShowEast regular.

Lionsgate recently formed Pantelion Films, a joint venture with Hispanic media company Televisa that will distribute films to Latino moviegoers in the U.S. Pantelion is set to unspool its first ShowEast show reel for exhibitors on Tuesday, along with several independent film distributors, in a special indie-day programming bloc.

Most major distributors presented well-received film reels to international exhibitors on Monday. But Warner Bros. cancelled a scheduled presentation just before the opening of the confab, prompting speculation that the studio's reel included 3D shots from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One."

Warners announced Friday it had decided to go with the first part of the final "Potter" chapter in 2D. Top-quality 3D would take too long to complete by the pic's November global rollout, the studio explained.

Recipients of international day awards on Monday included Arturo German Rangel, deputy attorney general for federal crimes investigation in Mexico, who was honored for anti-piracy leadership; Mauricio Duran, vp Latin American distribution, Universal Pictures International, for achievement in film distribution; and Fernando Soriano, general manager, CinePlanet, for excellence in exhibition.

ShowEast continues through Thursday at the Marriott Orlando World Center.
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