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Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox Staff Writer

CHATSWORTH - DVD distributor Image Entertainment Inc. made its first foray into the lucrative Latino market Tuesday, inking a six-year deal with Venevision International, a major producer of Spanish-language programming.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Chatsworth-based Image gets the exclusive right to sell select Venevision titles domestically and in Puerto Rico.

Dennis Hohn Cho, the company's general counsel and executive vice president for business affairs, said he could not speculate on how much the deal could add to revenue. Image and Venevision, based in Coral Gables, Fla., will try to release 12 titles this year and 50 or more over the course of the contract.

``In light of the large numbers, we're hoping for the best,'' Cho said. ``Venevision has a very good library and is well-respected in the business.''

The Latino market is the nation's fastest growing and becoming an economic force.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 39 million Latinos lived in the United States last year, accounting for more than $652 billion in disposable income.

Image is trying to corner some of that market.

``It's definitely a wave we want to catch and we feel that we're doing well in that area. The deal with Venevision kind of re-enforces that initiative,'' Cho said.

Video Store Magazine editor-in-chief Kurt Indvik said this should be a good deal for both parties.

``The Latino home entertainment is a significant and growing business. Lots of studios are taking a serious look at the market and forming alliances with companies that can deliver quality Latino product into the U.S. marketplace.''

His research shows that about 70 percent of Latino households where English is the dominant language has a DVD player, about the same percentage as the rest of the population.

``(Latinos) are pretty much on par or ahead of the curve in a great deal of home entertainment technology adoption and the purchase of software as well,'' Indvik said.

Officials at both companies said the deal melds Image's sales force and experience with Venevision's marketing strengths. And the latter will be able to promote the titles Image distributes through television advertising.

Venevision officials did not return calls seeking comment.

However, Luis Villanueva, president and chief executive officer of Venevision, said in a statement that his company has a high regard for Image's reputation.

The first two titles scheduled for release under the agreement are ``Rito Terminal,'' a movie about spirituality and the Mexican Indian way of life, and ``What Do Women Find Funny?'' a film about three comedian sisters and their father's marriage to a woman 45 years his junior.

Both are scheduled to be released in late July.

Gregory J. Wilcox, (818) 713-3743

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:3VENE
Date:Apr 21, 2004

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