Market Recap: A Look at Latin America's Exhibition Market in 2015
on November 09, 2015
"2015 has been a difficult year for Brazilians because of economic and political crises. For exhibition, however, it's been a very good year-one of the few industries that isn't in crisis," says Marcelo Lima, CEO of Tonks, a company specializing in exhibitor websites in Brazil and publisher of Exhibitor magazine, Brazil's leading exhibition trade publication. Lima specifically highlights Universal's terrific year in helping exhibition survive Brazil's economic recession, with films like Minions ($38.4M), Jurassic World ($29M), Furious 7 ($46.5M), and Fifty Shades of Grey ($30.7M) ranking among the year's biggest hits.
Brazil has also benefitted from several domestic hits in recent years to anchor their growing film industry. The first half of the year saw the runaway success of romantic comedy Loucas Pra Casar ($17M), while the second semester saw local title Vai Que Cola top the box office against fellow opener The Martian.
ANCINE, Brazil's national film board, expected the country to reach 3,000 screens by the end of the first half of 2015, a benchmark that was delayed because of the country's financial crisis. "Brazil depends on shopping malls in order to open new cinemas, and with the economic crisis we've had many shopping malls postponed," explains Lima, adding that the country should nevertheless reach the figure before the end of the year. Lima considers this more of an opportunity than a setback, "This is a chance to think outside the box. Once you don't have the chance to open a new theater in a shopping mall, and you still have money in your pocket because of the success we've had in recent years, this might create the necessary environment to start seeing stand-alone cinemas."
ExpoCine, the exhibition convention organized by Lima in São Paulo, will celebrate its latest edition November 17-19. Lima expects this year's edition to be at least three times bigger than last year's, with the three-day event featuring nine industry-related panels, immersive sound demonstrations from Barco Auro and Dolby Atmos, studio presentations using the latest laser projection technology, and a trade show with twice as many booths as it featured last year.
Among the panels and seminars, Lima cites a session on premium large format as one of the most talked about ahead of the event. "We're going to spend the entire first morning of ExpoCine talking about premium large format: box office, upcoming titles, and associated costs. In my opinion, it's the future here in Brazil: bigger screens with 4k projectors, more 4D and immersive experiences. I think the best cinemas here will have around five screens, two VIP auditoriums, and one premium large format."
ExpoCine is already primed for further growth in 2017, with the likely addition of a fourth day of programming catering exclusively to the Brazilian market to complement the three days of LatAm-focused sessions. It's a reflection of the Brazilian exhibition market's sustained potential. Fandango recently closed a deal to acquire online ticketing provider Ingresso.com, marking the company's first foray outside of North America. Exhibition in Brazil continues to be dominated by Cinemark and Cinépolis, but Lima also sees more opportunities ahead for smaller, regional outfits from Brazil in the coming years by concentrating in smaller cities that remain under-screened. "They have the space to grow, and I believe they are going to have good business for the next 10 years," he says.
The big news from Mexico continues to occur overseas. 2015 will be looked back upon as a key year for the international expansion of Cinépolis; the Mexican exhibitor extended its reach in the United States while looking to surpass 400 screens in India by 2017 and strengthening its reach in Central and South America. The company's biggest headline, however, was the acquisition of Spain's Cines Yelmo, marking the company's arrival in Europe.
Back in domestic territory, the Mexican box office enjoyed another strong year led primarily by family-focused titles like Minions ($45.7M) and Inside Out ($31.7M) and cross-quadrant fare like Furious 7 ($51.4M) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($51.4M).
In September, the Cinépolis Acoxpa Mexico City location became the first Latin American cinema to offer the immersive Barco Escape format with the release of Fox's Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. It might very well prove to be more than just a simple expansion for Barco Escape; Mexico has proven itself to be a pioneer of several of today's trends in U.S. exhibition, with amenities such as 4D, luxury seating, and cinema dining already being firmly established in the market. As we've seen with several other immersive formats, audiences best respond to innovations inside cinemas when they deliver with the product on screen. In this context, introducing Barco Escape into the region with a film like Fox's Maze Runner sequel, which was crafted specifically with this format in mind, might prove to be a driving force in the expansion of the immersive-screen concept across Latin America.
It's an up year across the board for territories covered by Ultracine, the Argentina-based box office data tracking company that has emerged as one of the leading sources for exhibition news in Spanish-speaking South America. Ultracine currently provides coverage for Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru and is working to expand to Brazil and Mexico in 2016. The company saw various admissions records shattered this year since it began collecting data in 1997, in large part thanks to the success of UIP, the distribution outfit representing films from Universal, Paramount, and others, depending on the country. "The only other company that was able to claim a significant portion of the market share was Disney, with hits like Inside Out and Avengers: Age of Ultron," reports Ultracine Director of Content Gabriel Giandinoto.
Minions was a force to contend with across South America, breaking admissions records in Argentina (4.94M) and Chile (2.1M) while registering as the top grosser so far this year in Uruguay and the second biggest film of the year in Paraguay. Fellow UIP release Furious 7 claims the top spot in Paraguay while Avengers: Age of Ultron takes the same honor in Bolivia. The Hollywood dominance wasn't unanimous, however, with a domestic title, Asu Mare 2, coming in as the biggest film of the year in Peru by reaching 2.7 million admissions.
The big news of the year on the exhibition front comes from the continued expansion of regional players Cinemark and Cinépolis. "They are competing at a continental level," stresses Giandinoto, highlighting the sale of Hoyts locations in both Argentina and Chile. The Argentine government finally approved the deal this year, giving Cinemark control of around 45 percent of the market. "A similar situation is developing in Chile," continues Giandinoto. "Cinépolis's acquisition of Hoyts locations in the country will increase its presence to around 40 percent of the market."
The growth in Latin America is reflected in the success of Ultracine's annual exhibition convention, Vista, which is preparing to celebrate its sixth edition in Buenos Aires on November 24 and 25 of this year. The event, traditionally held in May, will be moved permanently to November beginning in 2016. "Having the event scheduled between CinemaCon and Cannes required executives to spend too much time away from the office and made it difficult for people wanting to make the trip down south," explains Giandinoto. "Moving the event to November solves that problem and will allow studios to showcase films for the holiday season and their slates for the following year. It will also create an exciting synergy with our friends at ExpoCine in São Paulo."