Report: Latin America theaters bounce back

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LONDON -- Cinema attendance figures in Latin America are expected to rebound strongly in 2006 from the downturn experienced last year, according to a report published Wednesday.

Titled Cinemagoing Latin America, the report from exhibition specialists Dodona Research indicates that admissions across Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela are predicted to pass 368 million in 2006 compared with 324 million in 2005.

The research also points to Brazil, Peru and Colombia as the fastest-growing markets in the region in coming years.

But Mexico is likely to be the one dark cloud flitting across the report's landscape.

The report says that while Mexico's admissions per person are the highest in Latin America, at 1.5 visits per person per year, "the market has reached maturity and there is uncertainty surrounding whether it can realistically support more new screens."

Brazil is the region's second-largest market and already has seen considerable growth in terms of multiplex development and admissions, the report says.

And there is more room for growth in the giant Latin American territory.

Of the countries covered in the report, Brazil has made the most progress toward the conversion to digital cinema. Rain Network's digital network already encompasses about 140 cinemas, with more circuits signing up to adopt the system. New screens and the benefits of digital will push cinema admissions up 37% to 130 million by 2010, Dodona says.

More cinema development also is underway in Peru as exhibitors begin to target opportunities in secondary cities. Such growth is likely to drive the number of screens from 249 in 2006 to 300 by 2010, the research predicts.

A similar scenario is anticipated in Colombia, with major exhibitors targeting smaller towns and cities, which currently have little cinema provision. Admissions are forecast to reach 25.5 million there by 2010, up from 19.5 million by the end of this year.

Dodona's research also indicates that foreign-owned companies continue to dominate the exhibition sector in Latin America.

In Argentina, the four largest exhibitors are Hoyts General Cinema, Village Cines, Cinemark and National Amusements.

Cinemark has a strong presence in both Central and Latin America and is market leader in Brazil and Chile.

National Amusements expanded its foothold in Latin America in late 2005 through its acquisition of the 111-screen UCI Brazil circuit.

But in Venezuela, there are no foreign-owned exhibitors. Instead the market is dominated by two local companies: Cines Unidos and Cinex Multiplex, which together share more than 90% of total admissions.

"Latin America is one of the few regions where there are still real opportunities to grow admissions," Dodona report author Katharine Wright said. "Many of these countries have strong, well-supported domestic film industries and stabilizing economies. Expansion outside major cities should enable operators to build new audiences. Over the next five years, we expect boxoffice to rise from $920 million to $1.5 billion."
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