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Santiago Pozo left a job at Universal to launch Arenas, dedicated to marketing films and TV shows to the U.S.’ exploding Latino population. In the 20 years since, the company has remained a top force in the niche it pioneered, while branching out into film production and distribution. Pozo spoke to Todd Longwell for The Hollywood Reporter.
Hollywood Reporter: How has the business changed for you over the last 20 years?
Santiago Pozo: Twenty years ago, it was like selling ice cream in the North Pole — a very difficult endeavor. But I think today everybody in entertainment understands (the Latino) market can make a difference between a success and a failure. At the same time, the market has changed tremendously. The Hispanic media is well-established today. It’s also very diversified. You go from monolingual Spanish to monolingual English media targeting the Latino population in the country.
THR: Are any there any campaigns that stand out as landmarks for Arenas?
Pozo: The last one was probably (2006’s) “Apocalypto.” The Latino market was over 55% of the opening weekend audience. It had no stars and (the dialogue was) in Mayan, and we were opening head-to-head with a film — Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Blood Diamond” — that was looking for the same audience, males 18-34. And we were No. 1 at the boxoffice.
THR: Do you have any general advice for studios and distributors seeking to reach Latino audiences?
Pozo: Because somebody has a Latino surname, it doesn’t mean they’re experts. So if you’re going to hire somebody to take care of your campaign, look beyond the surname. Second, let the people who know the market take care of you in the market. There are studios that want to control every single move that the agency they hire is doing, and the reality is, if I have to be controlled by somebody who doesn’t understand my market, I cannot do my job. If you give me the responsibility, you also have to give me the power to do the job.
THR: Arenas has diversified in recent years, most recently with its new screening room and postproduction facilities. What aspect of your business are you most excited about right now?
Pozo: I think we’re going to be opening offices in Madrid next year, so I’m very excited about putting a foot in Spain. I’m also very excited about the way the market is going. It is unthinkable to release a movie today, a commercial film in Hollywood, without counting in the Latino portion of the audience. And new Latino talent is popping up left and right, in front of and behind the camera. Seeing the young Latinos and Latinas starting in Hollywood makes me feel very proud, because Arenas has opened more doors for Latinos in Hollywood than any other company. That is a very nice feeling.
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