As Variety reports this week, a new film entitled “Instructions Not Included” is about to become the highest grossing spanish language production in US history despite a very limited release over four weeks ago and relatively minimal publicity. The movie has currently grossed more than $34 million while still only appearing on 978 screens nation-wide.
With numbers like that, it’s clearly only a mattter of time before other mainstream studios recognize the already significant and quickly growing latino audience and begin more effectively tapping into what has long been a largely overlooked demographic. This is despite the fact that while Latinos make up approximately 16% of the US population, they represent 22% of frequent moviegoers.
Variety offers three interesting observations concerning the specific success of “Instrucitons.” First, the film is primarily targeted at families wheras previous generations of Latino-oriented cinema have largely been limited either to arthouse or action productions. With Latinos rapidly ascending into the middle class, storylines more closely reflecting the real life experiences of this new upwardly mobile generation are likely to enjoy ever greater box office returns.
Second, the distributors wisely recognized that Latinos are no longer clustered in a handful of large cities and marketed their movie accordingly – particularly in suburban malls and the South where more family-oriented features typically achieve higher ticket sales.
Third, star power still sells. US studios, however, with only a few notable exceptions such as Antonio Banderas, have failed to pay sufficient attention to who Latinos actually view as stars. In this case, the film’s director and leading actor, Eugenio Derbez, has long been a wildly popular “telenovela” star both north and south of the border yet remains a virtual unknown among non-Latino audiences. By seeking out talent that might otherwise stay beneath the radar, US studios will not only be able to a bring in a larger proportion of US Latino viewers but will also find it significantly easier and more profitable to sign lucrative foreign distribution deals in Spain and Latin America.
In truth, each of these developments could have occurred years earlier, but they do at least represent genuinely good news for Hollywood at a time when competition from DVDs, On-Demand and the proliferation of services like Netflix have been severely cutting into ticket sales. Hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before US filmmakers have their next seriously overdue realization and figure out that this newly flourishing “Latino cinema” shouldn’t only be marketed to Latinos…
Investors: consider yourselves on notice.