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Mexico: great place for film production. U.S. dominates market.

If you're a film producer, jot down Mexico for your next location scout. Production costs are 40 per cent. The climate is good year-round and it's two hours from Hollywood.

Shooting in this country is very attractive. Permits are easy to obtain, crews are professional, unions are cooperative and their wages are considerably less than non-union wages are in the U.S.

But it's a different story if you're an international feature film distributor. In Mexico, television is an $800 million per year industry, which is generated mostly from Mexican product.However, U.S. and other feature films fall far behind. In fact, this territory is only worth, at best, $2 million. Robin Hood has grossed $1.5 million and is considered a big hit for an American film. But, it is still almost $500,000 is box office revenues behind the Mexican film, Verano Peligroso.

There are basically six major feature film distributors in Mexico. The largest in Televicine, which produces and distributes both for television and feature films, and is part of the Televisa Group. Televicine distributes movies for Warner Brothers and Disney, in addition to independent foreign films and Mexican features. The second largest distributors is Oracio Altamirano, followed by Twentieth Century Fox, UIP, Columbia and Carlos Armador, who distributes only Italian and Mexican films, exhibiting them in his five theaters. For the most part, distributors are not exhibitors. Often, however, they are producers. As a matter of fact, the producer and the distributor relationship is such that when it comes to marketing the completed film, they share in the print and ad costs as well as split a 40 per cent share of the box office. The remaining 60 per cent goes to the exhibitor. Unless you're distributing for a major U.S. film studio, little advertising is done on television, which is not considered cost efficient. Instead, emphasis is put on all print media and radio.

It's important to note that a wide release is only 40 prints, with 20 going to Mexico City. These 40 prints are then bicycled throughout the country's approximate 425 theaters. If a film doesn't perform well after three days, it's pulled and sent elsewhere. There are two major exhibitors, the first being the government, which owns 200 theaters under the name of Operadora de Theatros. The second is Ramierez, who also owns 200 theaters.

Little has been done to refurbish or rebuild the old theaters. They are large and unsophisticated, have single screens and seat anywhere from 1500 to 2000 people. there are some multiplexes going up in the shopping centers. Unlike the production unions, the projectionist union is very strong and requires that there must be a projectionist for every screen. Considering that ticket prices are the equivalent of 80 cents (U.S.) and, at the most, $1.60, these additional wages, coupled with limited seating capacity, could prove to be sizeable dent. Fortunately for the exhibitors, moviegoers like their snacks, making concessions a source of guaranteed profit.

Tracking ticket sales can be a real problem for the distributor here, since people are often allowed to see the film free. This has resulted in the distributor sending people around to the various theaters to take impromptu head counts. That's not only problem though. One of the biggest problems a foreign film distributor has here is with translation. With the exception of animated movies, all foreign films must be subtitled. This can be deadly if one's target audience is kids, such as with Home Alone. Few children can read fast enough to keep up with the movie, nor is their attention sustained throughout the film. That's one of the reasons comedies and action films do well here. On the other hand, foreign animated films are dubbed. Film animation typically does very well, since Mexico is a young country full of children.

In terms of censorship, the Mexican government has its morals code. There are three audience categories: All Public; Adolescence, which prohibits those under the age of thirteen; and Adults Only, which prohibits those only under the age of eighteen.

The Mexican people love going to the movies. Although their films generate more revenue than their American neighbor, U.S. films still dominate this marketplace, with 120 released last year, compared to 80 Mexican films.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Stanford, Suzanne
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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