Living in a house that would be defined demographically as Latin-American has given me a very different perspective on what gets made, how things get released, and how specific groups are targeted in the campaigns for some movies and not for others.
Hollywood certainly seems aware that there is a huge audience out there that is both Hispanic and buying movie tickets, and so they’re working overtime to figure out how to reach out to them. Look at the trailer for Paramount’s latest entry in the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. They are well aware that a huge portion of the audience for horror films, driving those opening weekends, are young Latin males, and the same is true of superhero films.
One of the biggest box office stories of the year, relative to the size of the fin, is the success of “Instructions Not Included,” a small Mexican film that was written and directed by Eugenio Derbez, who also starred in the film. It managed to open in fifth place over the Labor Day weekend with over $10 million, and I guarantee something like that gets the money guys at the studios worked up.
If you don’t watch television from other countries, it’s easy to forget to that there are stars who you know nothing about from your particular window into pop culture. My mother-in-law and my wife both watch a lot of Latin programming from South America and Central America, and they are constantly looking to the studios to make access to their material easier and more accommodating. That doesn’t mean they want everything to nakedly pander to them, but can be as simple as making sure they’ve got Spanish subtitles available on anything that they put out on home video. I’m amazed how often studios will chase a dollar without looking at the simple ways they could reach out to a broader audience.
The question I’m curious about is how you create a more inclusive cinema landscape without excluding a broader audience at the same time. I think back to the way studios decided that they needed to chase specifically black cinema for a long time in the ’90s, spurred on by some of Spike Lee’s bigger moments and the breakthrough of “Boyz ‘n’ The Hood,” and more often than not, it felt to me like there was something condescending about the way they approached those movies.
I think Pantelion Films, which is a combined effort between both Lionsgate and Televisa, seems like they’re on the right track. I will admit that when I hear Marisa Tomei has been cast in a George Lopez movie called “La Vida Robot,” I am slightly disappointed to learn that it’s based on a real-life story that was covered in “Wired” instead of dealing with a hot robot lady, but that may be my issue.
This sounds like something along the lines of a “Dangerous Minds,” the story of a teacher played by Tomei who helps four teenagers, all from undocumented families, put together a robotics team that ends up competing in a national event against MIT. Lopez is producing the film and Sean McNamara directing.
Everyone wants to be included as a filmgoer, but it’s dangerous to overplay that. The real danger here is that by focusing on something that is aimed exclusively at the Latin market, you may exclude the audience you’re chasing, and I’ll be curious to see if Pantelion continues to work to find a middle ground, making movies that include the Latin audience without playing directly to them.