A Hollywood dream for Rio de Janeiro

Allen hasn’t taken Paes up on his offer,but the mayor continues to lobby hard.

Written by Associated Press | Published: October 6, 2013 3:39 am

For Mayor Eduardo Paes,it’s not enough that Rio de Janeiro is both an Olympic and a World Cup host city. He’s determined to turn Rio into a Woody Allen city,too,and has gone to extraordinary lengths to persuade the director to shoot a movie here,meeting with Allen’s sister,dispatching him handwritten notes and even pledging to underwrite 100 per cent of production costs.

Allen hasn’t taken Paes up on his offer,but the mayor continues to lobby hard. Scoring a film by the legendary director would help cement Paes’s vision for the city: to turn Rio into a cinema hub,the Los Angeles of South America.

The country is on track to make 100 feature films this year,up from 30 in 2003,and it’s increasingly sought out by foreign productions cashing in on the government’s generous subsidies and incentives. New studio complexes are in the works,and cinemas are mushrooming across Brazil to keep pace with ever-growing numbers of movie-goers,many of whom were pulled out of poverty by a decade of booming economic growth.

“Once you’ve covered your basic necessities,what do you want next? Fun. And for many people,that means the movies,” said Adrien Muselet,chief operating officer of

RioFilme,the city government’s film finance company.

The new viewers have helped push Brazil’s box office gross from $327 million in 2008 to $737 million last year. That puts Brazil among the top 10 movie consuming countries in the world,said Muselet.

With a population of 204 million,Brazil is increasingly factoring into the major United States studios’ strategic calculations.

“When you take an American blockbuster and set it here,even for just a couple of scenes,it just explodes in the box office here,” said Muselet,pointing to Breaking Dawn,which was filmed partially on location in Rio and the coastal colonial city of Paraty. The country ended up being the film’s second biggest market.

Other productions such as Fast Five of the Fast and Furious franchise and The Expendables were also partially shot here.

Rio officials also hope movies made here will help burnish the image of a city mostly notorious for its poverty and drug-fuelled violence,particularly as Rio gears up to host next year’s soccer World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

In a bid to attract more foreign productions,Rio’s government created an agency to walk teams through Brazil’s bureaucracy,helping them get the dizzying number of permits and permissions needed.

Brazilian films have made inroads internationally in the last five years,notably the Elite Squad films probing gang violence and political corruption in Rio. Other domestic fare includes smart comedies and smaller budget films.

The industry’s sudden growth has caused a shortage of qualified technicians and RioFilme is scrambling to fill the gap through training courses.

“We wouldn’t be seeing this kind of shortage if there weren’t a lot of demand,” said the agency’s president,Sergio Sa Leitao.

JENNY BARCHFIELD

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