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Ventura Debuts New Lola Films Library

11 Feb, 2004 By: Kurt Indvik

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Ventura Distribution took the opportunity during its third annual “summit” here last week to announce an expansion of its Studio Latino lineup, with the launch of a new library of more than 40 titles from the highly regarded Spanish independent film company Lola Films.

The first release from LolaFilms Home Entertainment will come May 11 with Girl of Your Dreams (La Niña De Tus Ojos), starring Penelope Cruz and directed by Academy Award-winner Fernando Trueba (Belle Epoque), at $19.99 on both DVD and VHS (prebook March 30).

Studio Latino plans to release one film per month from the acclaimed Lola library.

The second title, Sound of the Sea (Son De Mar), debuts June 15, also at $19.99 DVD/VHS. The films will be offered in the original Castilian Spanish version with an option for a neutral Spanish-language track.

In announcing the new deal with Lola, Ventura's SVP of business development Chris Lynch said the new line will “introduce the U.S. audience to a whole new world of ‘A' titles that have received limited or no exposure in the U.S. theatrical arena.”

“LolaFilms is a marquee brand that will help us work with retailers to create branded dedicated categories targeted towards the Spanish-speaking consumer as well as the American film enthusiast,” he said.

Indeed, Lynch referred to Lola as “Miramax-like in stature” as Spain's leading independent studio that, since its founding in 1981, has garnered 65 Goya Awards (Spain's Academy Awards), not to mention the 1994 Academy Award for best foreign film, Belle Epoque, starring Antonio Banderas.

Besides producing films for almost all of Spain's top directors, and some of the highest-grossing Spanish films of all time, Lola has also attracted major U.S. talent, such as Melanie Griffith, Faye Dunaway, Daryl Hannah and John Malkovich, whose directorial debut, The Dancer Upstairs, was produced by Lola.

The summit was a good opportunity for retail and supplier partners of Ventura to discuss the burgeoning Latino market and the major opportunities and challenges awaiting them in developing the market.

In an impassioned speech at the summit, actor, filmmaker and founder of the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival Edward James Olmos encouraged summit attendees to continue to build the Latino audience for home entertainment and noted that what Ventura and its partners are doing is “developing nothing less than a direct access to the largest market in the United States.” He added that even as the Latino population has leapt to more than 42 million, theaters showing strictly Latino fare daily in the United States have dwindled to less than 25, from more than 700 several years ago.

“My worry is, we are not developing an audience, and that's what Studio Latino is doing,” Olmos said.

In a roundtable discussion with retailers the next day at the summit, participants focused on such issues as marketing, consistency of supply, and building of the retail buying and merchandising infrastructure for Latino product.

Representatives from Best Buy, Blockbuster and Tower Records and Video discussed their Latino market initiatives and challenges to building this side of the home video market. (Complete coverage of the roundtable will be featured in the March 7 edition of “Cine Mercado,” Video Store Magazine's quarterly supplement focusing on Latino home entertainment.)

The summit, hosted by Ventura CEO and president Larry Hayes and his executive team, also included several panel discussions on the opportunities for developing the independent film market with panelists and one on the anime market.

See next week's edition of VSM for additional coverage.

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