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The Network - 05/12/2013


Colombia: Cinema Paraíso and Las Americas within the framework of digitisation


The Colombian cinema market is engaged in an extensive development. On one side, in relation to production and filmmaking and, on the other, to screening and distributing films, due to the phenomenon of digitisation taking place worldwide and that is seen as inevitable for all cinemas. Whereas Latin America has 45% of its cinemas digitised, Colombia has 90%. The five largest exhibition companies (Cine Colombia, Cinemark, Procinal, Cinépolis and Royal Films) already have the equipment or are in the process of negotiating to acquire it. However, the challenges that face independent cinemas are completely different.

In this situation of technological change, among the exhibitors members of Europa Cinemas Mundus, two of them built or expanded new cinemas in 2013, counting on the increase in an already existing audience, curious about new experiences, and with the programming facility that digital gives them.

Inspired by the Europa Cinemas Seminar in Bologna, Juan Carlos Mayungo, Director of the independent cinema Las Américas (three screens, two of them digitised), has put into effect various strategies for improvement in both the above-mentioned respects. In association with various institutions in the city of Medellín, and focusing on young adults, he set up a cinema programme through the local city channel in order to teach television viewers about independent cinema. In addition, he created a position of Community Manager to promote film programming in the social networks. He hosts 4 independent cinema festivals. He also works with various universities in the city to show short films made by students, helping them to screen their productions at the same time as they get to know the cinema.


Thanks to this work, at present the night-time screenings, usually attended by younger audiences, have increased by 35%, and general cinema attendance has risen by 17%. At the same time, two projects are being developed, the weekly screening of independent films at the Procinal commercial cinemas (for which J. C is the Financial Director), and the introduction of a website devoted to promoting independent films in the city of Medellín.

In Bogotá, Federico Mejía, an independent distributor and exhibitor who shows films through Babilla Ciné, enlarged the Cinema Paraíso at the beginning of 2013. With three additional screens, for a total of 4 screens, all digitised, the complex, which is equipped with a Café-Bar, enables the audience to think of a film as a social experience that goes beyond just showing a film.


The work with regard to the audience is extensively focused on social networks and on the loyalty card. Also, Cinema Paraíso frequently takes part in theme cycles and organizes two quarterly cycles of children’s films, in order to educate the new generations about independent cinema. The results of the cinema speak for themselves: before, the best films programmed used to make from 2,000 to 2,500 entrances within 6 weeks of programming. Recently four films have surpassed 3,200 admissions in a 3 - 4 week programming. These measures have made it possible to make the films distributed by Babilla Ciné profitable and have lengthened the life of independent films in Colombian cinemas.

However, the actual situation of these two cinemas is not the general rule in Colombia. Independent film cinemas are facing a serious risk from the announced disappearance of the 35 mm film by the end of the year. Neither the cinema industry nor the State has managed to put forward clear proposals for financing this technological change. While the digitisation of the large cinema complexes has been made through bilateral negotiations with large production companies, there are few independent cinemas, like Las Américas and Cinema Paraíso, that have financial backing from a multiplex or private revenue to finance new equipment. When this equipment is purchased as part of the Virtual Print Fee (VPF) business model, it costs 150,000 dollars. Also, the VPF integrators are not interested, because this business model requires a minimum number of cinemas and screens, which in the case of Colombia is difficult to arrange.


December 2013, Irene ANGEL ECHEVERRI & Marie-Blanche BETOURET


The Cinema Development Fund approved 10.91 million dollars in resources, 70% of which will be directed towards a policy of support for filmmaking. Cinema in figures. Newsletter no. 4, March 2013. Proimágenes Colombia. Available on-line in Spanish at:

See interview of Carolina Mila Torres with David Hancock in El Tiempo, lecturas dominicales. Available on-line in Spanish at: