MGM turns to Hayek for Latin flavor

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MGM has formed a partnership with multihyphenate Salma Hayek and her partner Jose Tamez to develop, produce and acquire mainstream films that either draw on Latin themes or feature Latin talent, both in front of and behind the camera.

The label, dubbed Ventanazul, will be housed at MGM and will follow the revamped studio's model of forging alliances with talent and providing them with creative control over their content while utilizing MGM's distribution and marketing infrastructure. The studio recently teamed with Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner in the rebirth of United Artists.

The Oscar-nominated actress also is the executive producer of the freshman TV hit "Ugly Betty."

Projects produced by Ventanazul, which means "blue window" in Spanish, will be financed by MGM and with outside structured funds.

"Salma and I have been friends for years," MGM COO Rick Sands said. "After (MGM) finished the UA deal, I called her up and asked if she wanted to start a label, and she was very interested."

Sands believes that Ventanazul will fill a void in the marketplace: Latino fare with crossover potential.

"Something like 'Babel' and 'Pan's Labyrinth' would fit perfectly into the label's slate," he said.

However, Spanish-language films like "Pan" likely would be picked up as an acquisition rather than financed by the studio.

"The Latino audience is such an important audience," Sands added. "They do go to the movies. You just have to make good movies."

Tamez has been named president of production at Ventanazul, which will produce two to four films per year, with MGM handling worldwide marketing and distribution.

"My conversations with Rick Sands and the MGM team have been tremendously exciting," said Hayek, who will serve as president and CEO of the banner. "We have been developing for months a plan to create an identity for the company that specializes in the Latino market without isolating the rest of the audience. I'm confident to say that with the help and support of MGM, Ventanazul has a specific vision that sets it apart from some of the stereotypical efforts made in the past."

MGM executive vp business affairs Jonathan Bader brokered the deal on behalf of the studio. Hayek is repped by CAA, Management 360 and attorney Bill Sobel.
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