By Bel Hernandez
Everyone knows by now (especially in Hollywood) that the number one film going audience is and continues to be U.S. Latinos, of which 68% are of Mexican ancestry. That could be why this weekend Mexican actor, Eugenio Derbez’s How to Be a Latin Lover, made history becoming Lionsgate/Grupo Televisa’s highest grossing film since its founding in 2010 under their Pantelion distribution arm. How to Be a Latin Lover was the 2nd biggest grossing film at the box office this past weekend, earning a record breaking $12,018,500 while playing in 1,118 theaters nationwide (earning $10,730 per theater).
Pantelion Films was created in 2010 with the purpose of targeting the U.S. Latino audiences and since then has released a variety of films with a mix of Latino themed stories and a mix of actors from the U.S. and Latin America. In 2013, fourteen films in, they had their first bonifide hit when Instructions Not Included, also a film which starred and was produced by Eugenio Derbez, broke records by becoming the U.S. highest grossing Spanish language film, and the the highest grossing foreign language domestic film of all time grossing more than $100 million dollars.
The story centers around Maximo (Derbez), a man who has been married (and living off of) an older woman, who finds himself divorced and having to move in with his estranged sister. With a mix of a good mix of Latino and non-latino cast there seemed to be a good mix of talent to attract a cross section of tastes. The cast includes Salma Hayek, Raquel Welch, Kristian Bell, Rob Lowe, and Michael Cera.
How to be a Latin Lover‘s showing at the box office may mean that Pantelion might have finally found the formula to tapping into the coveted U.S. Latino film going audience. Pantelion/Lionsgate has been perfecting its distribution model, releasing a total of 37 films before garnering the results it has with How to Be a Latin Lover.
Could this film the blueprint for Latin themed films that can get the attention of the U.S. Hispanic audience? They have had smaller success with their previous releases in their seven years run.
In 2012 they released indie drama hit Filly Brown which, although not a box office hit, was critically acclaimed and is the film that launched the career of Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin). Also in 2014 Pantelion released two films based on the lives of two Mexican and American Latino iconic figures, Cantinflas and Cesar Chavez: An American Hero. Although Cesar Chavez boasted of a strong cast with Michael Pena as Cesar Chavez, America Ferrera as his wife and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta, it only grossed $5,571,497. While the Spanish-language film Cantinflas, a Mexican production grossed a total of $6.3 in the U.S. and $11.5 million world wide ($9.5 in Mexico alone). Although, not the box office hits that they expected, these remain important films in the fine tuning on what works and what does not work for U.S. Latino filmgoers.
Fast forward to the present and How to Be a Latin Lover now stands as Pantelion Film’s widest U.S. opening release ever (1,118 theaters) and according to Lionsgate the audience for Latin Lover was 89% Hispanic.
Last week Ben Odell, Derbez’s producing partner at 3Pas Studios which produced the film, said to Variety, “This is what we aspire to with 3Pas – to make big commercial films geared towards a market that lauds and embraces diversity,” adding, “This isn’t a Latino movie, it’s a big funny comedy with Latino leads.”
Pantelion Distribution might have found gold in reaching U.S. Latino audiences. Will we now see the floodgates open for more content and more films starring Latinos in the leads? Are Latino films finally on track to achieve parity with the African-American communities in representation on the big screen? After all, the proof is in the box office Latinos want to see good movies and themselves in these good movies.
Directed by: Ken Marino
Written by: Chris Spain, Jon Zack
Produced by: 3Pas Studios