Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Latinos carry "Fast & Furious" movie

'Fast & Furious' taps into Latino market
A distinct Latin feel lures fans.
By Reed Johnson, LA Times, April 7, 2009

In addition to the roar of car engines and the blast of automatic weapons fire, there's another sound in "Fast & Furious" that's been integral to the franchise's success: Spanish-language dialogue and accents.

The latest installment of the action-thriller series has a distinctly Latin feel, including its south-of-the-border location settings (although some actually were shot in California), its soundtrack, several of its characters (including one played by Puerto Rican rapper Tego Calderón) and its plot line (hot-rodding hero Dominic Toretto battles Mexico-based drug runners).

Those elements are no coincidence, and they're partly responsible for the disproportionately large Latino crowds that the current film -- and the franchise in general -- have drawn, according to Universal Pictures, the movie's distributor.

Adam Fogelson, Universal's president of marketing and distribution, said that a limited sampling in five U.S. markets this past weekend showed that 46% of the "Fast & Furious" audience was Latino.

Although that percentage was not necessarily "representative of the national sample," Fogelson said, "it was again recognition of a huge part of the core fan base of this movie."

The movie has performed well so far in Latin American territories, bagging the biggest opening of 2009 in Mexico and Central America and accounting for 50% of the weekend box office in Mexico and Brazil, according to Universal.

Fogelson said that the Latino media marketing budget for "Fast & Furious" was the largest ever for a Universal film. The promotional campaign included running advertisements during a Mexico-U.S. World Cup qualifying match last winter, tapping into Spanish-language Internet social networking sites and dispatching stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez to do publicity in key Latino markets.

Fogelson said any future installments of the franchise would continue to take care of an audience segment that always has "taken care of the franchise."