The two stand-out foreign films of the 2008 Spanish box office were Matteo Garrone’s Cannes award-winner Gomorrah ($2.8m) and Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Oscar-winning Austrian title The Counterfeiters ($3.2m). Both were controversial titles which benefited from wide marketing campaigns.
Additionally, the foreign films that perform well in Spain tend to be the high-profile festival successes. Last year, Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 Palme d’Or winner, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days grossed $1m when it was released in January. The same month, Nadine Labaki’s Lebanese romantic drama Caramel opened and went on to gross $1.6m, the 117th highest-grossing film of the year. It had won the audience award at the 2007 San Sebastian film festival after making a big splash at Cannes.
Brad Anderson’s UK-Germany-Spain-Lithuania drama Transsiberian played at the 2008 Sundance and Berlin and went on to gross $3.1m at the Spanish box office for Filmax, which also co-produced the film. Transsiberian’s marketing campaign focused on the film’s cast - Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley and local talent Eduardo Noriega.
Horror films also perform well in Spain: M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening took $3m on its opening weekend in June.
As elsewhere in Europe, Dany Boon’s French comedy Welcome To The Sticks, which opened in January 2009, is demonstrating local comedy can travel. The film’s Spanish distributor Wanda puts its success ($5m and counting) down to the need for audiences to find light relief in the face of the country’s economic woes.
Indeed the financial crisis means Spanish distributors are buying less and becoming more picky.
“We often wait to see how a film performs elsewhere first before buying it,” admits Enrique Costa, head of acquisitions at Avalon Distribution. Costa is presently promoting Anton Corbijn’s 2007 Cannes hit Control, about the UK band Joy Division, by putting on a concert in Madrid and giving away free tickets to see the film.
TOP 100, 2008
9% - Percentage of Spanish films (inc co-prods) in the top 100
4% - Percentage of foreign (non-local, non-US films) in the top 100
SPAIN: KEY INDIE DISTRIBUTORS
Filmax is one of Spain’s leading producer-distributors, with a reputation for developing and acquiring solid local and international titles. These include (REC), Transsiberian and US indie PS I Love You. Filmax has a deal with Wide Pictures to distribute its US titles in Spain.
Who to know: Julio Fernandez, head of Filmax.
Recent acquisitions: Lee Daniels’ Precious: Based On The Novel By Sapphire, at Berlin.
Where to find them: Berlin, Cannes and the AFM, San Sebastian, Sitges and Malaga.
Wanda is a medium-sized production and distribution outfit which regularly co-produces and releases European and Latin American titles.
Who to know: Miguel Morales, head of acquisitions.
Recent acquisitions: Francois Ozon’s Ricky, Jerome Salle’s Largo Winch and the French title Oceans 3D, all at Berlin.
Where to find them: Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, San Sebastian, Seville and Sitges.
Alta distributes European commercial titles to Spain’s Roxy cinema circuit and arthouse titles to the Renoir chain. Previous acquisitions include Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah, Nadine Labaki’s Caramel and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives Of Others.
Who to know: Enrique Gonzalez Kuhn, head of acquisitions.
Recent acquisitions: Lisa Azuelo’s LOL and Stephen Frears’ Cheri, both at Berlin.
Where to find them: Cannes, Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Berlin, Toronto and San Sebastian.
DeAPlaneta is a medium-sized sales outfit and distributor with a keen eye for US indie dramas. It enjoyed relative success last year with Bangkok Dangerous ($3.2m) and In The Valley Of Elah ($2.6m).
Who to know: Yolanda Del Val, head of acquisitions.
Recent acquisitions Alex and David Pastor’s Carriers, Michael and Peter Spierig’s Daybreakers and Peter Hyams’ Beyond A Reasonable Doubt.
Where to find them: Cannes, Berlin, AFM and all the key Spanish festivals.
The Vertice 360 group is an amalgamation of several companies, including two key film distributors: Manga, which handles both mainstream and independent movies, including Rambo last year, and Notro, which favours arthouse films. Vertice was recently rocked by Adolfo Blanco’s decision to quit as head of film.
Who to know: Alex Lafuente, Manga’s head of acquisitions; David Mitjans, Notro’s head of acquisitions.
Recent acquisitions: Fausto Brizzi’s Ex, at Berlin.
Where to find them: Berlin, Cannes, Miptv, MIF, Mipcom, AFM and occasionally Toronto.
As one of Spain’s leading distributors of US and European indie titles, Aurum has distribution agreements with US outfits including Miramax, Lakeshore and Universal. Aurum is owned by Canada’s Alliance Pictures and co-buys UK rights with sister company Momentum Pictures.
Who to know: Jorge Vazquez, general manager.
Recent acquisitions: Neil Marshall’s Centurion, Carlos Brooks’ Burning Bright and Chris Weitz’s The Twilight Saga: New Moon, all at Berlin.
Where to find them: Berlin, Cannes, Mipcom, AFM and all the main Spanish festivals.
A medium-sized outfit that picks up mostly award-winning European indie titles, including Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir and Laurent Cantet’s The Class.
Who to know: Pedro Zaratiegui, general manager.
Recent acquisitions Robert Guediguian’s Lady Jane, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Still Walking, Steve Jacobs’ Disgrace.
Where to find them: Cannes, Berlin, AFM, Toronto, San Sebastian and other leading Spanish festivals and markets.
A small production and distribution outfit favouring niche independent films which have performed well on the festival circuit.
Who to know: Enrique Costa, head of acquisitions.
Recent acquisitions: Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost, at Berlin.
Where to find them: Cannes, Berlin, AFM, Gijon, Rome, San Sebastian and other Spanish festivals/markets.
One of Spain’s leading distributors of US and international titles, including Asterix At The Olympic Games (which it also co-produced) and Appaloosa last year. The company was bought by local media conglomerate Vocento in 2006.
Who to know: Felipe Ortiz Valero, director general; Jose Hueva, director.
Recent acquisitions: Burr Steers’ 17 Again, Ken Kwapis’ He’s Just Not That Into You and John Woo’s Red Cliff.
Where to find them: Cannes, Berlin, AFM, San Seb.