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Spanish TV network Telemundo is getting into the English-language movie business

Demián Bichir and Gabriel Chavarria play father and son in ‘Lowriders,’ the first theatrical release from Telemundo Films, due in theaters May 12.
Demián Bichir and Gabriel Chavarria play father and son in ‘Lowriders,’ the first theatrical release from Telemundo Films, due in theaters May 12.

Telemundo is getting into the movie-making business.

NBCU Telemundo Enterprises, which owns the Spanish-language TV network, announced Thursday it is launching a new business unit, Telemundo Films, that will develop, produce and market theatrical films in English and Spanish specifically aimed at the U.S. Hispanic market.

Telemundo Films will be headed by Luis Silberwasser, the president of Telemundo network. The company’s first release will be “Lowriders,” an English-language drama about a street graffiti artist from East L.A. trying to overcome his brother’s criminal past and his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture. The movie stars Demián Bichir, Eva Longoria and Melissa Benoist and was directed by Peruvian filmmaker Ricardo de Montreuil. The film was produced by Oscar-winner Brian Grazer (“A Beautiful Mind”) and Jason Blum (“Whiplash,” “Split”). You can watch the trailer here.

The release of “Lowriders” will be a partnership between Telemundo, Ron Howard’s production company Imagine Entertainment, Blumhouse Productions and Universal Pictures. The movie’s theatrical roll-out on May 12 will be handled by BH Tilt, a multi-platform distribution arm of Blumhouse that specializes in mainstream genre fare such as “The Boy Next Door,” “Insidious” and “Ouija.”

“Telemundo Films will allow us to leverage our expertise to expand our entertainment business into a new genre of storytelling,” said Cesar Conde, Chairman of NBCUniversal International Group and NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, in a press release. “We are excited to kick off this new venture in partnership with Imagine, Blumhouse and Universal Pictures, and look forward to working with them to serve the vibrant movie-going Hispanic market.”

Telemundo has surpassed chief rival Univision in prime-time ratings by producing its own content that reflects the tastes and interests of U.S. Hispanics.

Hispanic moviegoers plunked down $2.3 billion at the U.S. box office in 2015, according to Nielsen. Total box office revenues in North America for that year were $11 billion.

Other studios have already launched their own distribution arms catering to Hispanics. Lionsgate, the producer of the Oscar-nominated “La La Land,” and Mexican media giant Televisa partnered in 2010 to create Pantelion Films, a California-based studio that has released movies such as the Will Ferrell comedy “Casa de Mi Padre,” which was spoken entirely in Spanish, and “Instructions Not Included,” which grossed nearly $100 million worldwide in 2013.

In September, Lionsgate and Univision Communications announced the launch of a video-on-demand service, set to debut sometime in 2017, that will also court the U.S. Hispanic audience.

Construction is underway on a massive 450,000 square-foot facility in West Miami-Dade, set to open in early 2018, that will house several of Telemundo’s production and corporate divisions.

Rene Rodriguez: 305-376-3611, @ReneMiamiHerald

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