After working in selling movies to the Latino audience for nearly 10 years, I am no wiser.
When I started in Hispanic advertising, way back when the word "Hispanic" was created, it was a lot easier. The majority of the market was new arrivals and all they needed was product information. When you don't speak English, it isn't easy to navigate a supermarket aisle with hundreds of cereal boxes without a TV spot with a rabbit, a bee or leprechaun explaining the amazing nutritional value of pre-sweetened cereals in Spanish. So, that's what we did, created mildly entertaining situations around tons of information. It worked like a Lucky Charm!
Those days are long gone, the market has changed radically, it is layered and complex. The children who we sold pre-sweetened cereals are now adults (hopefully with not too many cavities). They grew up in America, speak both English and Spanish, straddle between two cultures and love going to the movies, much more than any other ethnic group.
All the studios are well aware of this and make sure there's a Hispanic campaign for most releases. After all, the sweet spot for movie goers is males 12 to 25, and in Los Angeles alone, Latinos account for 58% of that target audience. It would be a great oversight not to make sure they pick your offering instead of the competition's.
That part of the equation is clear, Latinos love Hollywood movies. But in the Land of Opportunity, every opportunity shall be explored and the big question is: do Latinos need, want or crave culturally relevant films that talk to them specifically? The African American market seems to support Black movies, exemplified by the amazing success of Tyler Perry. But, it seems Latinos are different. We came to this country to be part of the American Dream, not to be singled out.
So, there's a code to be cracked before confirming there's an actual upside:
How much "Latinidad" does a movie need to lure the masses of box office over-indexing Latinos into the theater? What's too much? What's too little? What's just enough? Should the movies be in English or Spanish? Is the opportunity with the Bi-linguals or are the Spanish speakers the real diamond in the rough? Hollywood already quenches their thirst for action and horror extremely well. What genre do we go after? So many questions, so much to do!
This is how I spend my time these days, trying to crack the code. We are exploring every permutation of movie under the sun: movies in English and in Spanish; movies with U.S. stars and movies with Latin American stars. Stories that are culturally relevant and stories that are just great. Fortunately, I work for a company that allows us a margin of error, a luxury Latino movies never had before. To me that's the real opportunity. I'm excited, but I feel an enormous pressure to succeed, not for myself but for the whole industry. It will be a great defeat if we have to go back to movies in plain Black and White.