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Hollywood Invests Abroad; Are Foreign Cinemas Rebounding?

by Anthony Kaufman
June 12, 2006 6:59 AM
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Just as fewer and fewer foreign-language films are getting significant theatrical releases in the U.S., Variety reports that Hollywood is investing bigtime in foreign-made films for international markets. It's an interesting contradiction: Studios, hedge funds, financial institutions and wealthy individuals see the potential for profits in financing the latest Russian blockbuster for release in Russia, but no one is interested in making that film popular in the U.S. (whatever its shortcomings, "Night Watch" stalled out at $1.5 million in the U.S.; what will Fox Searchlight do with the sequel "Day Watch"?). While I think this development can be a positive one for foreign film industries, helping them to boost their own production resources and train the next generation of foreign auteurs, could the move be just another bid to Starbuckify international cinema?

Say what you will about "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- Columbia Tristar Asia's successful template for the strategy -- but that film isn't really a Chinese movie, asi its American screenwriter/producer James Schamus has made clear: it's a global movie.

And by creating joint production ventures with local entities, such as Warner's China Film HG, as Variety notes, the studios can be treated as local companies and therefore avoid quota restrictions on U.S. imports.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the new Latin American Fund established by Eduardo Constantini Jr., in conjunction with the Weinstein Co. Their fund, worth up to $50 million, will finance production and acquisition of 14 Latin American movies over the next three to four years. That certainly should come as good news to Latin American filmmakers -- along with three new Mexican private equity funds -- but what types of films will they be financing? And will these territories, asks one Latin American producer, be able to sustain such an influx of films? Maybe to recoup their investments, these new companies will finally just have to start investing in marketing their movies in the U.S.

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