By Oliver Gettell
As "Fast & Furious 6" tore into theaters over Memorial Day weekend to the tune of $120 million, it was no doubt propelled by brand recognition and sterling reviews. But "Fast 6" got an extra jolt at the box office from Latino moviegoers, who accounted for nearly a third of the film's weekend audience.
That's a disproportionately high share and an indication of a very lucrative market. According to a Nielsen report this year, Latinos represent 18% of the moviegoing population in the U.S., yet they account for 25% of all tickets sold.
Fabian Castro, vice president of multicultural marketing at Universal Pictures (home of the "Fast" franchise), said it's now standard practice for the studio to develop marketing campaigns tailored to Latinos.
"Out of our average 15 releases, we're probably promoting 12 or 13" to the Latino market, Castro said in a phone interview.
He added the "Fast & Furious" franchise, which has long drawn heavy interest from Latinos, benefits from an ethnically diverse cast, including Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson and Sung Kang, and "is representative of the changing face of America."
Castro noted Diesel and Rodriguez participated in the film's Latino marketing, appearing at the Latin Billboard Awards, which took place in Miami on April 25 and were broadcast on Telemundo, and on the season finale of the Univision reality competition "Nuestra Belleza Latina" on May 19.
Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, co-president of production at Universal, said part of the reason the "Fast" films seem to resonate with Latino audiences is they have stayed true to their original ethos.
"The roots of this franchise are East Los Angeles," said Kirschenbaum, who added he was raised in Boyle Heights and Montebello.
"There's an authenticity to the cast members — who we cast in this movie, and where this movie's from, and where our characters hang out and live," he said. "You don't see, in our movies, Beverly Hills or Sunset Boulevard or Hollywood.… As this franchise has continued to grow, we've remained true to our roots, and I think audiences are going to come and say, 'Hey, I see myself represented in this movie.' And I think that's a big part of the attraction."
Over its opening weekend, "Fast & Furious 6" appealed to males and females in almost equal measure and skewed to a slightly older crowd, with 57% of its audience older than 25. According to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys, the film is likely to take in $45 million this weekend in North America.
Roberto Orci, chairman of the Assn. of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said big action movies such as "Fast & Furious 6" tend to perform well with Latino audiences.
"The top category [for Latino moviegoers] happens to be action-adventure, and that makes sense because an action-adventure has something for everybody in the family," Orci said. "It doesn't rely heavily on dialogue, so [whether a viewer is] more acculturated, less acculturated, everybody can enjoy it." (One of Orci's sons, who is also named Roberto, is a writer and producer who has worked on the "Star Trek" and "Transformers" franchises, both of which have done well with Latinos.)
Orci and Castro noted moviegoing is often a family event for Latino households.
"There are dynamics within Hispanic culture in terms of togetherness with family that transcend into moviegoing," Castro said. ("Fast & Furious 6" is rated PG-13, as are the other films in the series.)
Castro added Universal's family-oriented animated films such as "Despicable Me" and "The Lorax" have been popular with Latinos, and Orci similarly cited Pixar's "Cars" and "Brave."
Another genre popular with Latinos (though less family-friendly) is horror movies. Castro said Universal's "Mama," which touted producer Guillermo Del Toro in its advertising, attracted an audience that was 46% Latino.
And last fall, the Times' John Horn reported Paramount Pictures' wildly popular "Paranormal Activity" franchise had been buoyed by Latino audiences, prompting a spinoff specifically targeting that demographic.
These days, Orci said, "You can't underestimate the importance of targeting marketing and advertising and the outreach" to Latinos.
He added, "It makes a big difference, because it tells the audience that they're invited to this show. We don't go anywhere we're not invited."
Source: Los Angeles Times