Rio Film Fest: Latin American Producers Discuss Ways to Boost Business For Local Films

7 Boxes Still - H 2012

7 Boxes Still - H 2012

“We need to start thinking beyond our borders"

At a panel at the Rio Film Festival's market on Wednesday, Latin American producers discussed how to fight a highly concentrated market at home and make local films travel past their own borders.

With U.S. studios grabbing between 75 to 90 percent of the market share in the region, according to Ultracine, local films are only able to capture a little more than 10 percent of the market, leaving basically nothing for productions from neighboring countries, no matter how successful those are at home.

Indeed, in Argentina the studios grabbed 77 percent of the market this year, with Argentinian films making up an unusually large 18 percent of the market thanks to the massive success of one local movie (Oscar submission and festival favorite Wild Tales). Movies from elsewhere in Latin America are almost non-existent, with less than one percent of the market.

“There are plenty of Latin American co-productions, but they don’t make it to the theaters in our countries," Haddock Film's Vanessa Ragone, co-producer of Argentine Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes, said. Small differences in language and culture were mentioned as reasons, although Brazilian soap operas like Avenida Brasil have had record ratings in Argentina. “We need to encourage the circulation of our local stars," Ragone suggested.

The recent performance of Paraguayan thriller 7 Boxes, a relative success fueled by word-of-mouth on independent theaters, provided hope that there is an audience for these neglected films. “What we don’t have are venues for them”, said Ragone. The deficit in theaters is indeed a regional issue, as the MPA noted this week that Brazil has same problem.

Concentration has also started taking place in the distribution business, with local branches of studios like Disney or Warner Bros. progressively grabbing distribution of the top 10 local films in Argentina, which in recent years tend to make up almost 90 percent of the market.

“The studios have taken over the distribution market by grabbing the local top 10," said Fernando Sokolowicz. “If we don’t regulate this, we will end up with no cinemas for us," he added.

New film-watching platforms might be an opportunity for those films that cannot enter a cramped, U.S. dominated market, according to Patagonik’s Juan Lovece “If theatrical releases aren’t our outlet, maybe other platforms are," he said.

Producers are also looking abroad to increase business, as suggested by U.S.-based Venezuelan media entrepreneur Stan Jacubowicz, who produced the 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate release La Mujer de mi Hermano, a box office success in the U.S. Latin market.

“We need to start thinking beyond our borders," he said

“We have a trend of making Brazilian films in Brazil, and Argentine films in Argentina, when I believe there are formulas that are easy to make, aiming for larger audiences," added Jacubowicz, who is currently co-producing Kate del Castillo starrer Visitantes, scheduled for a December release.

“For example, Gravity can be seen as a Mexican film — with a Mexican director, a Mexican scriptwriter and a Mexican DP — and it’s all but Mexican. It’s a universal story that worked great. And we have plenty of great stories in Latin America," he argued.

In Argentina, this has certainly paid off, the panel agreed: Ragone’s Secret (directed by Juan Jose Campanella) is now set for a US remake featuring Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Gwyneth Paltrow, whereas Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer are currently Oscar favorites for their performances in Elsa & Fred, originally Elsa y Fred directed by Argentine Marcos Carnevale.

Also, popular helmer Juan Taratutto’s A Boyfriend For My Wife has been optioned by 10 different countries, including the U.S., China and South Korea, where it sold 5 million tickets.