ShowEast 2015: Latin American Boom Coming for Hollywood Franchises

Courtesy of Warner Bros.; Courtesy of Paramount

Distributor Pedro Rodriguez talks about why young adult titles like 'Divergent' and 'Hunger Games' are rocking it south of the border, how 'Sicario' is ready-made for L.A. audiences and what a "Cuban thaw" could mean for the industry.

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Pedro Rodriguez faces a complex task distributing and marketing movies in Latin America, a vast region with differing cultures and tastes. Rodriguez, who grew up in Mexico City, is president and CEO of Los Angeles-based IDC, which handles all Lionsgate and Summit titles in Latin America (and is half-owned by Lionsgate) as well as independent films from third parties. Even though Latin America is being ravaged by a currency crisis, countries like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina remain huge moviegoing markets for Hollywood fare. Earlier this year, Insurgent grossed 75 percent more than the first title in Lionsgate's young adult Divergent film franchise. Rodriguez also has shepherded the Twilight franchise, with the final film earning a record-breaking $124 million in Latin America, and since its distributor Lionsgate isn't considered a major Hollywood studio, that film now ranks as the top independent release of all time in the region. On Oct. 12, Rodriguez will be honored as international distributor of the year at ShowEast, the annual fall gathering of theater owners (hosted by the Film Expo Group of Prometheus Global Media, THR's parent company) in Hollywood, Fla.

The major studios and independent distributors will tout their upcoming slate during the show, as well as screen a handful of movies in full, including Paramount comedy Daddy's Home, starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell; Warner Bros. and MGM's Creed, starring Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan; and ensemble holiday comedy Love the Coopers, from CBS Films and Lionsgate and starring Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie and Ed Helms. A married father of four, Rodriguez spoke with THR on the eve of ShowEast about whether Lionsgate's Sicario and other drug cartel movies are ready-made for Latin American audiences, why Latin audiences like YA movies and what the "Cuban thaw" could mean for Hollywood.

Freestyle Releasing

"The Letters"

Paramount Pictures 

Warner Bros. Pictures 
"The 33"

"Creed"

Lionsgate Entertainment
"Love The Coopers"

Sony Pictures Releasing Product Presentation

Fox Searchlight

Open Road Films 
"Spotlight"

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Product Presentation

- See more at: http://www.filmexpos.com/showeast#sthash.GDLTHzp0.dpuf

Freestyle Releasing

"The Letters"

Paramount Pictures 

Warner Bros. Pictures 
"The 33"

"Creed"

Lionsgate Entertainment
"Love The Coopers"

Sony Pictures Releasing Product Presentation

Fox Searchlight

Open Road Films 
"Spotlight"

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Product Presentation

- See more at: http://www.filmexpos.com/showeast#sthash.GDLTHzp0.dpufA married father of four, Rodriguez spoke with THR about whether Lionsgate's Sicario and other drug cartel movies are ready-made for Latin American audiences, why Latin audiences like YA movies and what the "Cuban thaw" could mean for Hollywood.

What is most difficult about your job?

Latin America is easily said in one breath, but it really consists of 23 countries where we release and market movies. That presents a logistical challenge as well as a management challenge. Right now, we're facing currency shifts, and you obviously also have the issue of Spanish and Portuguese. You also have within the territories different nuances of what being a Latin American is. For us, the biggest challenge is to decide on a strategy.

What are the biggest cultural differences?

Brazil and Mexico have more of an appetite for mainstream commercial movies, whereas Chile and Argentina tend to be more sophis­ticated in their tastes for movies. Horror works really well in Mexico, but it doesn't tend to play so well in Brazil. And movies that have a spiritual side and reference the afterlife tend to play very well in Brazil but not in Mexico.

You're releasing Denis Villeneuve's Sicario on behalf of Lionsgate. It's the first of several Hollywood movies dealing with drug cartels in Mexico and other countries in Latin America. How do you think audiences there will respond to the subject?

I don't think people are going to go to the movie because of the issue of cartels or no cartels. I think the backdrop of the movie is the backdrop of the movie. I don't think people went to see The Hurt Locker because it happened in the Middle East. Sicario is a fantastic movie and a great piece of filmmaking that tells a story. There's always an appetite for the movies that are getting international recognition at the film festivals, whether Cannes, Toronto or Sundance.

So how will you go about releasing Sicario, which stars Benicio del Toro as a shadowy member of a cartel who is consulting with the CIA?

We're starting to open Sicario in the next couple of weeks, beginning with the West Indies. We'll be rolling it out throughout October. That's partly to allow the movie to breathe in the U.S. Art house movies are difficult in Latin America as a principle because there are not art house cinemas. They have to compete with the big blockbusters in the multiplex, so it can be hard for them to stand out. The more awards recognition and positive international criticism they get, the easier it is for the audience to find them.

Why do YA movies work so well in places like Mexico and Brazil?

Latin America has a very young population, more so than Europe and North America. Family films also do well. There are more children there. And families like to go to the movies as a family.

With relations thawing between the U.S. and Cuba, do you think you'll soon be distributing movies there?

That's a fascinating question. I'm sure that there will be opportunities to bring movies to the Cuban people, and I think that it'll depend on the aperture by which the U.S. government allows us to bring entertainment to Cuba and the aperture by the Cuban government that allows us to play international mainstream entertainment. There's also the matter of the infrastructure. We don't know much about the state of their theaters.

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