A new major post production facility will launch in August in a bid to challenge the monopoly of leading facility Cinecolor in Argentina.

The new lab, called LACSA, aims to bring down the prices set by Cinecolor which has forced major and local distributors to deeply reduce their local print runs. (Screendaily April 25).

LACSA is a three-way partnership forged by former Cinecolor founder and CEO Fernando Huberman, producer Fernando Sokolowicz of Aleph Media and entertainment lawyer Oscar Azar.

"Cinemas in the interior of Argentina are in danger of closing down because the cutback in prints means that many films are not getting to them," said Huberman, the president of LACSA.

Huberman left Cinecolor after he clashed with owners Chile Films over the price hike soon after the peso devaluation in December 2001. "I have many friends in the film industry; I found I could no longer defend Cinecolor's policies," he said.

Cinecolor's rates nearly tripled when it continued to peg them to the dollar while the peso plunged to more than a third of its former value.

The majors have been lobbying the local government to allow the importation of used copies in order to drive down costs. By law, they are allowed to import the negative of a film but must process the prints in Argentina.

Armed with start-up capital of $2m, LACSA has acquired an old building in Buenos Aires that used to house the offices of TV network Canal 9 and some lab equipment from Alex Laboratories which closed down in 1995. It will supplement these with more equipment from the US.

At present, Cinecolor charges an average of $1,000 a print. Subtitling a print increases up the price to nearly $5,000 per print, not including translation charges. LACSA has plans to cut back current rates by 20%.

LACSA will also enter in co-production deals as has Cinecolor, offering post production services in exchange for a producers credit and/or Latin American rights. It is currently in talks with two European production companies.

Cinecolor, which has offices in Mexico, backed Mexican blockbuster The Crime Of Father Amaro and several Argentinean titles.

Huberman has personally invested in Juan Carlos Desanzo's gritty drama about street urchins in Buenos Aires, El Polaquito, with Spain's Alma Ata as a co-producer.