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App Teams Up with César Chávez Film to Tap Into Huge Hispanic Market

Pantelion Films


A version of the story below by KUT's Veronica Zaragovia aired on WBUR's Here & Now today. Listen to the story here.

Original story:

An English-language film about civil rights activist César Chávez is out in theaters today. It’s out at the same time as a smartphone app that translates the movie into Spanish in real time.

The aim is to tap into the sizeable Hispanic market in the U.S.

Mexican company Canana produced the film and its distributor, Pantelion, partnered with a smart phone application out today that makes the movie simultaneously available in Spanish. I caught up with Olenka Polak, the co-founder of the myLINGO app, earlier this month.

"The way it does that is it uses the microphone on the smart phone, listens to what point you’re playing in the movie when in the theater, and then synchronizes that alternative language track to play at the same time," Polak says.

For now, the app will only work with the Cesar Chavez film and only translates the film into Spanish. How did myLINGO choose that movie in particular?

"Pantelion Films is a subsidiary of Lionsgate pictures, and they’re a studio that’s catered towards Hispanics in the U.S. going to the movies, which is a huge market," Polak says.

Ariel Coro, a tech expert often heard on Spanish language TV network Univision, says it’s not surprising they partnered on this particular movie.

"Because it’s a big title for the Hispanic community, especially the Mexican-American community, which is the largest percentage of Hispanics in the United States. Now it’s a matter of getting the word out," Coro says.

Hispanics make up about 17 percent of the U.S. population -- but last year, they bought about 25 percent of movie tickets sold nationwide. 

"And also, when they go to the movies, it’s like a family event where it’s a social family event that’s very ingrained in the culture," says Professor Felipe Korzenny, director of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University.

Korzenny says about 30 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. depend on Spanish to comprehend content and this includes people who many not even know who César Chávez was.

"When you think about many of the new immigrants to the U.S. and the younger generation that might be Spanish dominant, for them, understanding the story of César Chávez can be very crucial as an educational tool," he adds.

Data fromthe Pew Research Centersuggests Latinos are using mobile technology at similar—and sometimes higher—rates than other groups of Americans. Pew found that between 2009 and 2012, the share of Latino adults who say they go online increased from 64 percent to 78 percent. With those kinds of numbers, the developers of myLINGO are betting an app that combines digital use and movie-going will be a blockbuster with Hispanics.