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Woman to Watch: Elba McAllister of Cineplex of Colombia

Woman to Watch: Elba McAllister of Cineplex of Colombia

Elba McAllister’s Cineplex of Colombia seems to be
everywhere.  We met up at the IFF
Panama this April and had some time to talk, a rarity at such events as Cannes
or Berlin.

seemed to me she had been in the business forever, though I only met her when FICG
(Guadalajara Film Festival) began its market maybe 10 years ago.  Cineplex itself is 23 years old, having
begun in 1993 in a partnership with the well-known buyers rep and producer
Andre Boissier.

Twenty-three years ago, Colombia screened very few arthouse
movies. Cineplex and other indie distributors
introduced smaller films from Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and
North America.  Now Colombia’s international
coproductions are extending viewer’s perspectives even further.  Indies captured 5.9% of the market in
2007, compared with a relatively paltry 3.6% in 2003.  Local and foreign independent films now share 20% of the

About a decade ago,
the country had 250 screens and now it has 935. In 2005 there were 15M people
going to the cinema per year. Now it’s 58M. In local currency, there was a 71%
increase in box office from 2011 to 2015.

Colombia has seen notable growth thanks
in part to the construction of more shopping malls. Mexican exhibition giant
Cinépolis opened its first megaplex in Colombia in 2008. 

Cineplex is one of the leading distributors of independent
films in Colombia. In 23 years in the market, it has presented and average of
20 to 25 films a year, over 300 high quality films, selected from major
festivals and film markets around the world. 

actually began her career in the pharmaceutical industry but later joined her husband
and her brother-in-law in a new venture — film distribution, something she knew
nothing about.  In Colombia, the
films acquired by Cineplex go first into cinemas and progress to all windows
including DVD, VOD and TV in all its forms (Pan TV, VOD, SVOD, Cable, Free TV).

In 2000 Cineplex expanded its distribution to include Central
America & Ecuador. Elba McAllister
and her husband, Juan David McAllister, have brought in such directors as Wong
Kar Wai, Susanne Bier, Mike Leigh, Lars von trier, Katherine Bigelow, Claude
Chabrol, Agnieszka Holland and Ken Loach and others to Colombia and its

Cineplex began forming alliances with other Latin American indies and
prebuying pan-Latin rights to name some, 
“Satin Rouge,” “Evil”, ¨Reconstruction¨, “Broken Flowers”, “Brokeback
Mountain”, ¨My Blueberry Nights¨ and most recently ¨Mustang¨.

recent stand-out films include “Mustang” and “Land and Shade” the Cannes 2015
Camera d’Or and Critics’ Week Winner sold by France’s Pyramide. Lead produced by Diana Bustamante’s Burning Blue, (Diana Bustamente, currently the Director of Cartagena
Film Festival as well)  “Land and
Shade” also won two prizes at Cannes Critics’ Week: the France 4 Visionary
Award and Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers SACD Prize.  Other new releases include Academy
Award winners and contenders “Carol”, “Theeb” and “Brooklyn”.

Anne Marie
De La Fuente in Variety quotes Elba as saying

“Bringing art house films to Colombia
and shifting moviegoers’ attention from Hollywood blockbusters requires close
work with universities, embassies and cultural institutions and creating
original grassroots campaigns. Whenever possible, Cineplex gets the directors
and/ or actors to fly in to help promote their pictures.”

With Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,”
which Cineplex pre-bought for LATAM, it organized marketing tie-ins with Levis,
Universal Music (for the soundtrack) and a gay rights foundation. Marlboro
sponsored the premiere in Bogota.

Additionally Cineplex helps Colombian filmmakers
representing their films for Latin America and advising the world sales agent,
depending their films to name a few, Ciro Guerra, William Vega, Oscar Ruiz,
Dago Garcia among others. 

Last year, Diana Salcedo (Elba´s daughter) joined the
family business to strengthen the distribution in different platforms
(theatrical, TV, VOD, OTT) for Colombian and Latin American films in different
markets. Diana is bringing wide experience after working for a major Latin American
Pay TV and OTT broadcaster.

“We believe in the potential of independent cinema with the
participation of strategic partners that make marketing a global business. We
want to make each of our friends, colleagues, competitors and customers a
community that allows a film to reach its greatest potential. We believe
humanity has a chance to think and act without borders and that its only limit
is in its own desire to achieve the best result using innovation and
partnership with strategic partners that will be part of each project.”

“We’ve brought in what we wanted: films
that don’t need pretty faces, multimillion-dollar budgets, special effects or
predictable endings. Marketing Independent cinema is our passion¨.

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