According to the Motion Picture Association of America’s annual statistical report, Latinos made up 23 percent of movie tickets purchased in the U.S. last year. However, there is an underlying problem to this statistic. There is a lack of movie theaters in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, especially in Central California, and Moctesuma Esparza, famous for producing “Selena,” is trying to change that. Esparza is the owner of Maya Cinemas, which opened its first theater in 2003 in Salinas, California, a predominantly working class Latino community. His mission is to bring movies to these undeserved communities.
Moctesuma Esparza is bringing movie theaters to Latino neighborhoods even as overall ticket sales decline.
'Selena' producer Moctesuma Esparza opens fifth movie theater for underserved Latino communities https://t.co/ZgywqWDXmO
— William Autry jr. (@WilliamAutry) May 22, 2018
Maya Cinemas has opened its fifth movie theater in Delano, California, despite ticket sales declining. The working class Latino neighborhood, where Cesar Chavez helped organize a labor strike in 1965, didn’t have an operating movie theater for 10 years and is an example of the need Esparza is trying to fill with his movie theater chain.
Latinos make up nearly double the movie sales among all minorities in the United States at 23 percent.
Hollywood producer ('Selena') Moctesuma Esparza opens a new Maya Cinemas theater in Delano, Calif., birthplace of the farm workers movement and Latino civil rights.https://t.co/uN1MpnOZEQ
— NBC Latino (@NBCLatino) May 22, 2018
“The market is underserved, and it’s the market that contributes more than any other to the bottom line of Hollywood,” Santiago Pozo, founder of Latino-focused marketing firm Arenas Entertainment, said in an interview with the LA Times. “It’s a community that really goes to movies.”
Maya Cinemas hopes to expand beyond California and into more predominantly Latino communities around the United States.
— Luis Vasquez-Ajmac (@LAjmac) May 21, 2018
According to The Undefeated, Esparza is growing outside of California. There is currently a theater under construction in Las Vegas and eventually will follow up in Texas and Arizona.
Esparza has been an advocate for the representation of Latinos in mainstream media.
#AwesomeAngeleno: Moctesuma Esparza was a key leader in the the East LA Walkouts of 1968. 40,000 students strong, this movement advocated for cultural diversity in curriculum and cultural acceptance by school staff. Later, Esparza became a founding membe… https://t.co/sBoLxOYE6K pic.twitter.com/PbQre5YnEN
— LA2050 (@LA2050) February 25, 2018
Esparza was an organizer during the 1968 Chicano student walkouts in East LA. In support of independent filmmakers who haven’t been able to get a theatrical distribution, Esparza has launched a program at his movie theaters will air their films.
Latino representation is needed more than ever in mainstream media.
Fun fact: maya cinemas is owned by Moctesuma Esparza, a film producer and activist in the Chicano movement. There’s only 3 in existence and it’s always showing Latinx films y’all should appreciate it more!!
— 𝔍𝔬𝔰𝔢𝔭𝔥𝔦𝔫𝔢 (@josiesghost) November 29, 2017
While Latinos make up 18 percent of the U.S. population, they were represented by just 3 percent of speaking parts in the Top 100 films in 2016.