We’re pleased to announce that Mexican cinema keeps breaking records: theater attendance is at an all time high, local film production has followed suit, and the film industry is more dynamic than the Mexican economy as a whole. But unfortunately such an assertion doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of a much more complex panorama. In truth, we could say that 2015 was actually pretty mixed bag for Mexican moviemaking, with some promising trends belied by continued challenges and even some backsliding from recent peaks.
And we know this thanks to an in-depth report called the 2015 Statistical Yearbook of Mexican Cinema, recently released at the Guadalajara International Film Festival. But don’t be mistaken — this yearbook isn’t filled with embarrassing thumbnail portraits or dozens of bite-sized platitudes written by easily forgettable acquaintances. In fact, it’s 307 pages of hard statistics and analysis compiled by the folks over at the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE) in collaboration with a really official sounding government entity known as the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).
It’s not exactly what you would call light reading, but for the hardcore cinenerds amongst us it gives a fascinating portrait of the state of Mexican cinema with an eye toward its past and a sense of where things could move in the future. Overall, it speaks to an uncommonly healthy industry, but makes clear the challenges faced by industries across the developing world amidst the continuing dominance of Hollywood cinema. Here are some interesting highlights from the report.
One of the World’s Great Cinephile Nations
That’s right, with 286 million tickets sold in 2015, Mexico broke 2014’s record by a whopping 46 million and managed to secure a slot amongst the world’s top five theatergoing nations. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean very much for Mexican cinema, as 40% of the tickets were concentrated in the top 10 blockbusters of the year — all of which migrated down south from Hollywood, California.
A Rooster with 4.1 Million Spectators
Sure, it couldn’t edge out Minions, or Furious 7, or Inside Out, or even The Spongebob Movie, but Mexico’s highest-grossing national film of 2015 was the animated comedy Un gallo con muchos huevos, from Huevocartoon Producciones. With such fierce competition, the film didn’t even scratch the year’s top 10, but it did manage to secure itself the number five slot on the list of most viewed Mexican films of all time. The year’s number two national film was a U.S.-Mexico co-production titled Little Boy. Though it was shot in English and stars a mostly gringo cast, Mexico’s production interest has allowed it to take the number 9 slot in the country’s all time top 10.
A Record Number of Films Produced
Film production in Mexico hit a historical high last year, surpassing a record set during the industry’s Golden Age peak in 1958. With 141 total features produced, 2015 brought three more films than the previous record of 138, and 11 more than 2014’s high of 130. Small detail: only 80 of these films actually made it to theaters, which is a big dip from a more recent peak of 101, reached back in 2013. Overall, attendance to Mexican films is down by 27% from 2014.
A Turn Toward Documentary
The average budget of a feature film has gone down after a steady increase from 2008-2013. According to the numbers, Mexican filmmakers are turning increasingly to documentary as a way to offset production costs and minimize shooting logistics, and in 2015 35% of total national film production was documentary. Interestingly, of the states with the most film activity in the republic, Guerrero, held the number two slot after Mexico City. Unfortunately this isn’t evidence of a burgeoning film scene in one of the country’s poorest and most violent states, but rather a flood of documentaries shot in the region after the tragic disappearance of the 43 students.
In a positive sign, there are more female filmmakers in Mexico than ever before, with 25% of the year’s features directed by women, up from 20% in 2014.
An Economic Powerhouse
Between 2008 and 2013 the film industry grew an average of 6.7% per year, dwarfing the overall national growth rate of 1.4%, and making the Mexican film industry seven times more dynamic than the national economy when considering other factors. In total, the film industry created 2,630 jobs with a total GDP of 4.37 billion pesos (roughly equivalent to $246 million), contributing almost $2.5 million in taxes to the federal government.