Tapping into the Latino market

Movies: Latin Universe plans to bring only Spanish-language films to America.

September 11, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD -- Hoping to capitalize on the enormous Spanish-language and bilingual movie-going audience in the United States, a distribution company has been formed to bring Spanish-language films to U.S. theaters.

Latin Universe, backed by Los Angeles-based venture capital firm Brener International Group, plans to distribute as many as 12 Spanish-language movies to U.S. theaters in the next year. With the exception of some smaller studios, such as Miramax and Artisan Entertainment, which distributes foreign-language films, Latin Universe will be the only U.S.-based Spanish-language film distribution company.

Its first nationwide release, targeting major Latino markets, will be the Mexican film "Santitos," this year's Sundance Jury Award winner. The film will be released in November. The company intends to distribute films made in Latin America and Spain.

Ted Perkins, a former Universal Pictures acquisitions executive, will head the company -- which has no relation to the studio. Perkins, who grew up in Latin America, said the U.S. market is ripe for modern Spanish-language films at multiplex theaters. The company's plan has it expanding into film production, licensing, talent management and music publishing by its second year.

"The key for us is to set up a solid distribution pattern in the U.S. I guess you could say we are the new generation of Spanish-language film distributors," Perkins said. "We want to give Hispanics an opportunity to see films in their own language and that speak to their cultural experience."

As the Spanish-speaking population in the United States continues to grow, so has Latin television and radio -- industries that rake in millions of dollars annually.

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