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Hollywood and the 1,000 faces of the Hispanic market

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The Hispanic market is still a mystery for Hollywood and the film industry, eager to benefit from Latinos' growing purchasing power, continues to struggle to understand what is a diverse population.

Research by the Motion Pictures Association of America confirms a trend the studios know well: Hispanics like to go to the movies with their families, and they like it a lot. So much that, adjusting for their demographic presence, they are the most loyal moviegoers.

Hispanics, who are about 17 percent of the population, last year made up 32 percent of the audience for Hollywood movies in the United States. Whites, who are 63 percent of the population, accounted for 43 percent.

Blacks, about 12 percent of the U.S. population, also made up 12 percent of moviegoers.

This statistical bump is what has been labeled the Hispanic market, a generalization that covers tens of millions of people who come from different countries and have a wide variety of traditions.

"It is not a huge single market, nor is it many small markets either," Rick Ramirez, Warner Bros' vice president for Targeted Marketing, told Efe.

"There is not a single promotion formula" that works all the time with Latino audiences, he said.

Studios tackle this conundrum on a case-by-case basis, because each movie is a challenge different from the previous one.

"A Puerto Rican in New York is completely different from a Mexican in Los Angeles," according to Fabian Castro, Universal Pictures' vice president for Multicultural Marketing.

"There are some things that unify this market such as language, food, their interest in some sports, religion," he said.

Another key factor is the Spanish language and, Ramirez and Castro say, it helps to have a bilingual cast.

"A particularly effective tactic" is to have Anglo stars such as Vin Diesel and Tom Hanks making the tours of national television shows in Spanish, Castro said.