The U.S. motion picture industry and the Mexican government have embarked on a cross-border partnership in the battle against Mexican film pirates, who raked in $140 million last year, Motion Picture

MEXICO CITY (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The U.S. motion picture industry and the Mexican government have embarked on a cross-border partnership in the battle against Mexican film pirates, who raked in $140 million last year, Motion Picture Assn. of America president Dan Glickman said at a news conference March 9.

Glickman's anti-piracy mission to Mexico included a meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox as well as a tour of one of Mexico City's crime-ridden black-market areas, where he was able to acquire a pirated copy of his son's movie.

Glickman later told reporters that Fox had designated top government official Eduardo Sojo as a point person to coordinate enforcement efforts between the Mexican government and the Motion Picture Assn., the MPAA's international counterpart.

Glickman emphasized that movie piracy in Mexico, which is ranked 10th for MPA member companies among all foreign markets, has become a pressing concern. "Losses to the film industry in Mexico due to the sale of optical discs are about $140 million [for 2004]," he said. "The good news is we're working together with Mexican authorities; the bad news is the problem is getting bigger and bigger."

According to the National Film Chamber, Mexico ranks third worldwide behind Russia and China in annual piracy sales.

Getting a firsthand glimpse of Mexico's back-street traders, Glickman -- accompanied by bodyguards -- toured Mexico City's Tepito neighborhood, which he later described as "one of the world's largest black markets."

It was there that he was able to purchase a pirated copy of "The Pacifier," a film produced by his son Jonathan Glickman. The picture was released March 11 in the United States but has yet to hit Mexican screens.

"It was disturbing," he said. Although authorities stage periodic raids in Tepito, it is believed that they do not go after the larger distributors because they allegedly receive police protection.

Glickman mentioned several measures that will be taken to combat piracy. First, Mexico's MPA anti-piracy office will go after about 6,000 pirate vendors who hawk their wares in Mexico City's 192 metro stations.

The MPA also will continue to develop its so-called "conversion" program, which seeks to replace the sale of pirated products in street markets with stands that specialize in low-cost, legitimate merchandise.

Many consumers here say they buy pirated movies because they can't afford to go to the cinema. A movie ticket costs $4 -- equivalent to Mexico's minimum daily salary -- whereas an illicit copy fetches about $2.

According to a study released by Screen Digest, Mexican theaters are the seventh-most expensive in the world when considering relative purchasing power.