HBO Films has agreed to acquire the first six Latino-themed projects developed by MayaPictures, the new film and television production company launched by producerMoctesuma Esparza and Robert Katz. Maya is currently in the process of identifying emerging Latino filmmakersfor these projects which will touch on the contemporary US Latino experience.

Moctesuma Esparza will executive produce the series of films. Kimberly Myers heads development at Maya Pictures. The development staff includes Greg Gomez, Tery Lopez and Tonantzin Esparza.

Esparza/Katz is best known for coproducing Selena, the hit musicalbiopic about the slain Latina singer which launched Jennifer Lopez's career.

In 1999, Esparza unveiledthe Maya Cinemas North America project, an ambitious plan to build a national chain of multiplextheatres aimed at providingLatino-themed films a secure distribution venue. The new exhibitionchain will featurestate-of-the-art sound and image technology and stadium seating. Some of thelarger screens will include so-called 'crying rooms,' glassed-in enclosureswhere parents can bring their offspring and not bother other members of theaudience. In the late evenings, these can be converted into VIP rooms.

HBO Films has recentlyproduced two Latino-themed films, Real Women Have Curves and AndStarring Pancho Villa As Himself.The former, a comedy about an 18 year old Mexican-American caught between heraspirations for a contemporary lifestyle and the demands of her culturalheritage, debuted at Sundance 2002 where it won the Dramatic Audience Award.Newmarket released it theatrically before it aired on HBO and its Spanish-languageoffshoot, HBO Latino.

And Starring Pancho VillaAs Himself, about the Mexicanrevolutionary who allowed aHollywood crew to follow him into battle, bypassed the theatrical window to air on both channels.

Both Esparza and HBO Films'Keri Putnam were unavailable for comment.

According to Maya Cinemasspokesperson Julio Vallejo, three theatres are scheduled to begin construction before year's end. These arecomprised of a 14-screen plex inSalinas and a 16 screen-plex inBakersfield, both in California.Another multiplex with 10 screens will go up in Santa Ana Puebla, NewMexico.
The theatres will offer first-run Hollywood movies and reserve at least one totwo screens for arthouse and Spanish-language films. The new circuit's ultimateobjective is to build 500 screens in five years. These will be mainly locatedin underserved urban and rural areas with predominantly Latino communities.

Esparza, the company's CEO,has been the founder, president and CEO of several media companies including Esparza/Katz Productions(which made Selena), Saints &Sinners Film Development Co., and Buenavision Telecommunications, Inc..

Frank Haffar, the company'sPresident, has over 30 years of experience in developing and operating movie theatres throughout the U.S.and was most recently the chief administrative officer and vice president of EdwardsCinemas.