Last November Lionsgate created Panamax Films, a division they hoped would disprove Hollywood's long-held assumption that the massive Spanish-speaking population in the US is not a market for mainstream, Spanish-language films. To run the new company, Lionsgate hired Jim McNamara, a native of Panama who was once president and CEO of Telemundo, and his new company's goal is to "develop ... straightforward commercial Latin films," as opposed to the handful of niche films from Latin America that are released in the US each year.

Lionsgate's Panamax experiment begins on Friday, when the romantic comedy La Mujer de mi hermano is released in about 200 theaters. While that number is a far cry from the thousands of screens that major releases hit on their debut weekends, Panamax is fully committed to finding that Spanish-speaking audience, and even pushed the film's release back by several months in order to allow more time for advertising. When the film, which features an ethnically diverse cast, was released in Latin American last year, it reached the top of the box office in several countries, and was the highest-grossing R-rated film in Mexico during 2005.