Where is the Mexican audience?
I just attended the Arthouse Convergence, the most important gathering for Arthouse Cinema owners in the USA. Foreign and independent film and film festival programmers were also in attendance. One of the questions I heard the most was: How can I reach the Mexican audience?
30 million Mexicans and approximately 50 million Hispanics reside in the United States. Mexicans live in every state, and probably in every city. Everyone watches movies, but: Are we watching films in art houses? Scratch that. Are we even watching Mexican cinema?
The answer is an outright NO.
While entertainment is the reason why most of the Hispanic population goes to the cinema, the Arthouse audience is predominantly white, high-income individuals over the age of fifty-five, who consider film an important part of their lives and cultural formation.
Some Arthouses have played Mexican films, but have been poorly attended. Unfortunately, most Mexicans living in the U.S. don’t like Mexican cinema. It’s the same problem in Mexico; very few Mexican movies get the audience they deserve. Even though Mexican cinema has won some of the biggest awards in the most important film festivals all over the world, the results have been dismal at the Mexican box office.
However, it’s important to state that the Mexican community does watch Mexican-made movies, the ones from yesteryear, and they watch them at home, on the Cinelatino channel and old DVDs.
In recent years, there have been some “successes” in Mexican films at the box office, all of which have been distributed by Pantelion Films. Unfortunately, their formula educates little about cinema attending or reaching new audiences. Their films are easily digested by the Univision/Televisa audiences, consisting of the familiar Telenovela faces, comedies and easy-to-market films.
So, apparently, the only way to succeed with a Mexican film with a Hispanic audience in mind would be to spend millions of dollars on Radio/TV, and screen in commercial cinemas such as AMC and REGAL CINEMAS.
A change is needed. Great films come out of Mexico that can attract both the Arthouse attendees as well as the Mexican population. Films like: Güeros, Elvira Te Daría Mi Vida, and others.
People ask me how we get an audience for Hola Mexico if Mexicans don’t like to watch Mexican films. The answer is simple: We have dedicated an enormous amount of time and effort to develop an audience who eagerly wait one year to watch quality Mexican films. Millions of people don’t attend, but thousands do, which is enough to constitute a successful festival. And developing audiences is exactly what cinemas need to be doing.
Arthouses endeavor to reach all types of audiences, young people, students, and minorities. And while research shows the audience is getting younger, minorities are still not attending.
Change will also depend on the films that will be distributed as well as the willingness of Mexican producers to attempt different distribution methods in the United States. As Mexico does not have an Arthouse Cinema circuit, it will be interesting to see how they will distribute their films to Arthouses in the U.S.