Jorge Fons' multi award-winning Midaq Alley (El Callejon De Los Milagros), starring Salma Hayek, and Ernesto Gomez Cruz, will be the first Mexican film to be released domestically on DVD when it hits the shops on July 15. The release is being handled by Alameda Films, director Arturo Ripstein's family-run production/distribution company.

According to Alameda manager Daniel Burman Ripstein, Midaq Alley will be released via an exclusive deal with Blockbuster. At present, DVDs comprise 15% of Blockbuster's rental and sell-through business. The company has just opened its 200th video store in Mexico and plans to open 40 more outlets by the end of the year.

The increasing popularity of the DVD format, as well as a robust film industry, is driving a busy release schedule for local films on the digital format. NuVision, which has a service deal with Disney, will release its international sensation Amores Perros in August. Other films scheduled for release include Todo El Poder (Fox), Cronica De Un Desayuno (Columbia TriStar), Por La Libre (NuVision), Pension de Artistas (Alameda) and Ripstein by Ripstein (Alameda), a collection of 13 films by Ripstein.

At an average $150 per unit, DVD players have become relatively more affordable in Mexico but what has really driven the market are multimedia computers. Sales of DVD-playing PCs have grown faster than the CD market, according to Scott Evans, founding president of post-production facility Fiction Company.

At present, the three-year-old Fiction is the only facility processing local films onto DVD. It has converted some US product into the Latin American Region Four format for NuVision's acquisitions such as American Pie, Blair Witch Project and What Women Want. Evans is now in talks with the owner of a 400-Mexican film library and is also looking to tap clientele in Central and South America. "We just started in January this year and are overwhelmed by the growing demand," said Evans.