Hispanics at the Movies: Hollywood Misses una Oportunidad

The Wrap March 2011
By Joshua L. Weinstein

As with “Chasing Papi,” the movie flopped.

Enter Lionsgate.

Last fall, the studio — which found great success marketing the Tyler Perry movies for an African American audience — partnered with Televisa, a Mexican media conglomerate, to form Pantelion. The company plans to release between eight and 10 movies a year.

The $2.9 million its first movie, “From Prada to Nada,” grossed is peanuts — but about what the company’s chairman, Jim McNamara, figured it would make.

“Nobody is crying,” he told TheWrap. “We had decent international sales and I think we are all coming away saying we learned a lot. It’s our first picture as this new sort of specialty company and we did learn a lot and we were surprised at how well some of the theaters did.”

The movie, a contemporary, Latina take on Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility,” was not well-reviewed, and it did not feature especially well-known stars.

In April, Pantelion plans to release, “No Eres Tu Soy Yo,” a Spanish-language film with a name that translates to, “It’s Not You, It’s Me.” After that, it plans to release “Go For It!” a dance movie about underground clubs in Chicago.

Like Galan and others, McNamara, the former CEO of television giant Telemundo, said that one big issue in Hollywood is that with the exception of people like Universal’s new vice president of multicultural marketing Fabian Castro, “you don’t find too many Latinos. You look at the studios, you don’t see one Latino.”

The point of having Latinos in positions of authority, he and others explained, is having such people will help the studios make movies that speak to the Hispanic audience – and will thus make money.

The other problem, he said, is that big studios “have gigantic overheads, they have gigantic production commitments, deals with big producers and big stars, and it’s all geared around finding blockbusters.”

He said that sometimes, movies and audiences need to be nurtured.

And he noted that the feeling is, when a movie tailored to Hispanics fails, studios worry that all “Hispanic movies” will faill.

The national executive director of the Screen Actors Guild agrees.

David White told TheWrap that “something will come out and the numbers won’t look good, and that will be a reinforcement of the tape — that ‘Hispanic’ movies don’t do well. But the truth is, a lot of movies don’t do well, and the studios don’t stop making movies.”