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5 things Hollywood learned about Latino moviegoers this summer

For kids in school, summer is typically spent catching up on reading lists and assigned homework between hours spent at the swimming pool and with friends at summer camp (not necessarily in that order). But many professionals working in the entertainment industry—whether as producers, journalists, actors, or producers—spent this summer learning about Latino moviegoers. (That’s largely thanks to an exclusive series on Hispanic film consumers published at TheWrap.)

From the growing importance of Hispanic females at the box office to the expanding movie preferences of Latino film fans, here are a few essential—takeaways about Hispanics that got Hollywood’s attention this summer.

1. Hispanic women over age 25 are the most frequent moviegoers. Summer films like Transformers: Age of Extinction, Godzilla and Captain America: The Winter Soldier are meant to capitalize on the appetites of young, mostly male audiences, but it turns out that Latina movie lovers headed to the movies more this summer often than any other age or ethnic group. According to a study conducted for The Wrap by market research firm C4, about 20 percent of Hispanic women watched this summer’s major releases—and in every case except for The Fault in Our Stars, those buying movie tickets were over the age of 25.

2. Hispanic audiences go to movies of all genres. Horror and family flicks used to be considered standard money makers among Latino audiences (the smash success of Guillermo del Toro’s Mama and the Lego movie were largely driven by Hispanic audiences). This summer, hits like 22 Jump Street (a comedy), Fault in Our Stars (a drama) and Edge of Tomorrow (a thriller) were all heavily attended by Latinos, who made up at least 20 percent of the opening week audience—proving that just like in political elections, their preferences aren’t monolithic.

3. Twenty is a magic number. When it comes to Hispanic movie lovers, that is. According to Nielsen/Univision research conducted for The Wrap, Latino ticket buyers are now Hollywood’s most valuable audience, accounting for at least 20 percent of ticket sales opening weekend for the highest-grossing movies in May and June. “You don’t have a major hit without Hispanic moviegoers,” Chris Aronson, Fox’s president of domestic distribution, told TheWrap.

And consider this: Latinos purchased 25 percent of the tickets sold in 2013 in the U.S. though they account for just 17 percent of the U.S. population, according to a study published by the Motion Picture Association of America last year. Those statistics are the driving force for a growing number of creative agencies that specialize in helping studios market films to Hispanic moviegoers, who tailor media campaigns to appeal to an audience that cares deeply about culture, family-friendly content, and Spanish-language media.

4. Tacos and margaritas now mean big money for cinemas. It’s no secret that overpriced popcorn and Big Gulp-sized drinks earn major dollars for movie theaters, but a diversified menu at the concession stand is a big draw for Latino moviegoers. Fajitas, chicken wraps, tacos, dishes spiced with chipotle peppers, and specialty cocktails are now available at AMC’s 15 dine-in theaters nationwide, part of an industry-wide push for diverse dining choices and alcohol offerings that aims to capitalize on the fact that Hispanic moviegoers overindex in their purchase of concessions and alcohol.

“Our dine-in theaters, while not specifically targeting a certain demo, have a seasonal menu that would line up closer to a Hispanic moviegoing population in terms of food,” AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan explained to TheWrap.

5. The Latino presence in film—both in front of the camera and behind the scenes—remains alarmingly low. Despite the presence of Latinos in summer films like like Sex Tape (starring Cuban-American actress Cameron Diaz) and The Purge: Anarchy (with its predominantly Latino cast), there are “fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today, than there were seventy years ago,” a recent study by the Columbia University Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race shows.

And it gets worse: When Latinos are on camera, they are typically portrayed in roles that lean heavily on stereotypes—Latinos are often cast as criminals, law enforcers, cheap labor, and hypersexualized beings, the study found. And according to the study, when it comes to behind-the-scenes talent, Hispanics account for just 2.3 percent of movie directors, about 2 percent of producers, and 6 percent of writers.

“The success of a few Latino stars has created a widespread perception that media diversity in the U.S. is significantly improving,” said Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and the study’s lead researcher in a statement. “But our findings indicate that, in some ways, it is getting worse.”

Box office preview: 'Sex Tape' and 'The Purge,' 'Planes' sequels to threaten 'Apes'

Last weekend may have signaled a new Dawn for the Planet of the Apes franchise, as its latest film exceeded studio and analyst expectations with a $72.6 million debut. But Caesar and the gang face some formidable cross-genre competition this weekend, when Sex Tape, The Purge: Anarchy, and Planes: Fire & Rescue all hit theaters in wide release. With a steep drop-off expected for Apes and a lack of decent horror, family, and raunchy comedy fare on the market, all are tracking pretty similarly, making this summer weekend a rare box office wild card.

Here’s how things might play out:

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2014's most influential director: John Carpenter?

John Carpenter was once among Hollywood’s most prolific filmmakers. But the man who brought us such genre classics as Halloween, The Thing, Escape From New York, and Assault on Precinct 13 has only made one movie in the past 13 years—2010’s psychological thriller The Ward—and hasn’t troubled the box office in a big way since 1998’s James Woods-starring Vampires. (And Carpenter, 66, doesn’t sound like he’s in any rush to get back behind the camera: “I worked really hard for more years than I’d like to count, but now I can pick and choose things,” says the director, who most recently co-penned a comic book follow-up to his 1986 kung fu-fantasy film Big Trouble in Little China. “I was doing too much—music and writing and all this shit. I had to take a break. I’m developing a couple of things. But we’ll see. There’s no urgency.”)

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'Snowpiercer's' VOD gamble is paying off

Snowpiercer.jpg

Snowpiercer is undoubtedly one of the buzziest films of the summer season. It’s got stellar reviews, a cool underdog vibe after becoming a huge blockbuster in South Korea, and stars Captain America himself. So, how is it that two weeks after it finally hit U.S. theaters in limited release, audiences can already rent the film on VOD? Ten years ago this might have signaled a failure, but today, it’s just part of RADiUS-TWC’s distribution plan. And based on this weekend’s numbers and the fact that the pic skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot on iTunes and many other digital platforms less than a day after launching, it seems to be working.

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Box office report: 'Apes' conquers, 'Boyhood' starts strong

If this weekend’s number one movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes — the second entry in the rebooted Apes franchise — has a spiritual sibling in the original series of films, it is 1972′s Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. While Conquest was the fourth movie in the franchise to arrive in cinemas it is, like Dawn, the second according to the interior timeline of its series and, again like director Matt Reeves’ new film, features an apocalyptic showdown between apes and humans. Thus, it seems appropriate that this weekend Dawn of the Planet of the Apes comprehensively conquered the domestic box office by earning an estimated $73 million, exceeding both expectations and the $54.8 million opening weekend of its predecessor, 2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

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Casting Net: 'Game of Thrones' vet Rose Leslie joins Vin Diesel project

Game of Thrones alum Rose Leslie is set to join Vin Diesel in The Last Witch Hunter, a supernatural thriller about a “semi-immortal” witch hunter (Diesel) who teams up with a witch (Leslie) to take down a more evil witch. And, despite being mortal enemies, the witch and the witch hunter also flirt with romance. Breck Eisner is directing the Summit pic, which recently got a polish from Dallas Buyers Club writer Melisa Wallack. [THR]

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Box office preview: Can 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' save the summer?

Poor Caesar already has a lot on his plate between defending his family and community and helping the humans restore power in San Francisco. Now, he has to step up, squash the Transformers, and save the summer box office as well, which is down nearly 20 percent from last year’s record-smashing season.

It’s a good thing everyone so far seems to really like Fox’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes—the second installment in their rebooted franchise, which picks up in the world of 2011′s Rise 10 years later. As of Thursday afternoon, it had the distinction of being one of the best-reviewed blockbusters of the year with a phenomenal 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But, while Dawn should do better than the first film, saving the season might be a bit too much to ask of the Apes.

Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian put things into perspective a bit, too. “This is a more normal summer. If we weren’t comparing to the record-breaking summer of last year, it would seem like a normal type of summer with some hits and some misses,” he told EW. “But when week after week, we’re compared to the massive results from a year ago that propelled a record summer, then no question we’re going to be lagging behind.” He added: “Fast forward to next year, and this will all be a thing of the past. It’s cyclical.”

As for this weekend, here’s how things might play out:

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Casting Net: Dwayne Johnson in early talks for 'The Janson Directive,' more

• Dwayne Johnson (Fast & Furious 6) is in early talks to star in the Robert Ludlum adaptation The Janson Directive for Universal. The book, published after Ludlum’s death, follows an ex-Navy Seal who is forced on the run when a rescue mission goes bad. There is no writer or director attached at this early stage, but according to the report, it could be a potential franchise. [THR] READ FULL STORY

Box office update: 'Transformers 4' crushes 'Tammy,' 'Earth to Echo'

Tammy is no match for the Transformers. The Melissa McCarthy comedy had a slight shot at snagging the top spot over the holiday, but the Autobots managed to stave off extinction for one more week — at least till the Apes take over next weekend.

Michael Bay’s fourth installment in the toy-based franchise pulled in an estimated $10.6 million Friday, while the R-rated Tammy (C+ Cinema Score) took in $6.44 million from 3,400 theaters. In other words, there were no box office fireworks this weekend.

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Casting Net: Tina Fey developing 'Untitled Witch Project' with Disney, more

Tina Fey is in early development on a “supernatural-themed feature” with Disney known as the Untitled Witch Project, but it is decidedly not a Hocus Pocus sequel (as was the rumor early Wednesday). According to the report, the project will be in the vein of Ghostbusters, and Fey will star and produce. Next up for Fey is the Jonathan Tropper adaptation This is Where I Leave You, out Sept. 19. She’s currently filming the comedy The Nest, alongside Amy Poehler.  [Deadline]

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