Warner-Videocine has swooped on De La Calle, the latest title from the explosive Mexican cinema scene to set its sights on repeating the success of Academy Award nominee Amores Perros.
Warner-Videocine, a joint-venture between Warner Bros and local TV giant Televisa, has committed to a release of at least 150 prints on De La Calle, which triumphed at this month's Guadalajara International Film Festival. The production and distribution operation, which last year secured a local box office hit with The Second Night, is expected to distribute the story about Mexican street kids later this year.
Made for a mere $1m, De La Calle is seen as similar to Amores in its savvy style and tough, street-wise theme. Like Amores, the Fernando Tort-directed drama boasts a talented young star, this time Luis Fernando Pena, who won the best acting prize at Guadalajara.
The Warner-Videocine pick-up comes as a wave of Mexican films are enjoying local success. Like the Fox-distributed Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas (Sex, Shame And Tears), which become the third highest title at the local box office after Titanic and The Lion King, many are benefiting from the clout of the US majors.
"Thanks to the 130m admissions registered in 2000, Mexico is already the fourth world market," said Ernesto Rimoch, film director and president of the Mexican Independent Producers Association (AMPI). "US studios do not only profit from the box office returns of local titles they distribute in the Mexican market'They also target the 35 million-strong US Spanish speaking audience, thirsty for pictures in their native language."
Several studios are now ramping up local production operations such as Warner-Videocine's Coyoacan Films. Local companies, notably production powerhouse Altavista Films, are also increasingly active. In the past three years, the number of Mexican feature films produced annually has nearly tripled, with 28 made last year, often with backing from the prolific Mexican film institute IMCINE.