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‘Ultima’ gets ready for national release

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The nation will get to see a piece of New Mexico.

Rudolfo Anaya's classic "Bless Me, Ultima" will begin a limited national release on Feb. 22.

Rudolfo Anaya’s classic “Bless Me, Ultima” will begin a limited national release on Feb. 22.

“Bless Me, Ulitma” will begin a limited national release beginning Friday, Feb. 22.

The film will move into markets in California, Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois and Florida.

Arenas Entertainment Founder and CEO Santiago Pozo announced that the film had an extremely successful box office run in regional release earlier this year and the company decided to market it to other areas.

The film, “Bless Me, Ultima,” is based on the provocative award-winning novel by celebrated New Mexican author, Rudolfo Anaya.

Based on the controversial, first award-winning Chicano novel by Anaya, “Bless Me, Ultima” is a turbulent coming-of-age story about a young boy, Antonio (Luke Ganalon), growing up in New Mexico during World War II. When a mysterious curandera (healer) named Ultima (Miriam Colon) comes to live with his family, she teaches him about the power of the spiritual world. As their relationship grows, Antonio begins to question his strict upbringing by his parents (Dolores Heredia & Benito Martinez). Through a series of mysterious and at times terrifying events, Antonio must grapple with questions about the nature of divinity and his own destiny.

The film opened on Oct. 19, in just five New Mexico theaters, a day after premiering at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. To date the film has grossed more than $325,000 in New Mexico and averaged a robust $16,000-plus per screen on its opening weekend, making it the No. 1 film in the region that weekend. Similarly, the film was successful in its El Paso release on Sept. 19, averaging $10,000-plus per screen on its opening weekend and grossing more than $100,000 since its Sept. 21 debut in that city.

“We firmly believe that this wonderful movie, which is based on a book that is celebrated in the American Southwest, can be embraced by the entire country,” said producer Mark Johnson, “The story of ‘Bless Me, Ultima’ speaks to all of us.”

“‘Bless Me, Ultima’ is a truly special book that has engaged readers for decades with its universal, yet highly personal coming-of-age story,” said producer Sarah

DiLeo, “We are honored to be a part of bringing this beloved story to the screen and sharing these richly drawn characters and unique culture with an even wider audience.”

The movie was directed by Carl Franklin at Greer Garson Studios on the campus of Santa Fe University of Art & Design in 2010.

Franklin was also at the helm of the Denzel Washington movie, “Devil in a Blue Dress.”

“Bless Me, Ultima” was filmed at Ruby Ranch in Las Vegas, N.M., Pecos River Ranch in Rowe, Abiquíu, Garson Studios and the old Manderfield School in Santa Fe and the production employed 150 New Mexicans during its nearly three-month shooting schedule.