Smaller production companies such as Maverick are looking for a smaller slice of the same pie. The company launched seven years ago, creating films mainly for the African-American market. Two years ago it began buying and producing small-budget Hispanic films. Since then, Maverick's new Fusion division has made three English-language films for Hispanic audiences, one of which – Señorita Justice – has been sold for distribution.
"[Fusion films] have a Hispanic tie," Mr. Pérez de la Mesa says, "but we could go out and distribute them on a broader basis – on a more massive deal basis – knowing that, in the worst case, at least we're going to hit the Hispanic segment."
Samuel Goldwyn Films, a large independent film production and distribution company, also makes and buys English-language films that contain Hispanic themes. For these, the studio places most of the film's advertising with Spanish-language media, then hopes that movie critics will raise awareness among the U.S. "specialty market" of foreign-film connoisseurs, which president Meyer Gottlieb considers the second target audience for such films.
The most successful of Samuel Goldwyn's English-language Hispanic films was Tortilla Soup, released in 2001. It explores the relationship between a widowed Mexican-American chef and his three daughters. Produced by Samuel Goldwyn at a cost of $654,000, the movie took in $4.5 million at the box office.
"The bottom line is we try to bring an emotional bond. Just like they do in the general market, we do it to the Hispanic market," says Rocio Prado-Kissling, partner at Latin World Entertainment, a specialty advertising and talent agency in Los Angeles.
"There is an effort on our part to find more film projects that should be of interest, culturally at least, to the Hispanic audience," he says.
Plural Entertainment's strategy for reaching Hispanic moviegoers has a twist. Hoping to attract second- and third-generation Hispanics, the company plans to create more films with dialogue in English and Spanish, as it did in co-producing A Day Without a Mexican.
Major Hollywood studios, aware that English-speaking Hispanics will pay to watch a quality film regardless of whether it deals with a Hispanic topic, continue to try to make a connection by casting big-name actors. But beyond that, big studios also are turning to specialty advertising companies to make a connection with Hispanics.
Latin World Entertainment, an advertising and talent agency in Los Angeles, is contracted by major studios to publicize the Hispanic angle in mainstream movies. When Universal hired the firm to market its new Ray Charles film to Hispanics, the company decided to play up Charles' work with Hispanic musician Poncho Sanchez, Partner Rocio Prado-Kissling says.
"The bottom line is, we try to bring an emotional bond," Ms. Prado says. "Just like they do in the general market, we do it to the Hispanic market."
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