Spanish multimedia house Grupo Correo has acquired a 30% stake in Madrid-based production outfit Grupo Boca, home to the BocaBoca and Cristal labels.
The deal leaves the door open for Correo to take an additional 30% interest before January 2002, a move which would convert Boca owner Cesar Benitez into a minority shareholder.
Correo - which also owns 25% of Spanish broadcaster TeleCinco, 17% of Madrid film production house Esicma and 17% of TV producer Grupo Arbol (home of Globomedia) - is shaping up to become a hefty content source for the new free-to-air DTT platforms set to launch next summer in Spain.
While the additional 30% option on Boca may come as a surprise, the Correo announcement is not entirely unexpected. Rumours about new partners for Boca - including TeleCinco - have run rampant in recent months. "To make films with a more industrial bent you need to have an expensive infrastructure," Benitez has said.
Benitez has sought out new financing structures over the last year following his 1999 buy-out of BocaBoca founding partners Manuel Gomez Pereira and Joaquin Oristrell. In January, he formed a partnership with distributor Felipe Ortiz of Tri Pictures to form BesoBeso, producer of Salma Hayek-starrer The Good Life (La Gran Vida).
Part of Benitez's strategy has been a solid mix of film and TV production. TeleCinco and Boca have a long history collaborating on TV series, led by popular youth drama Class Is Out (Al Salir De Clase). Earlier this year TeleCinco signed on to back a five-title feature film slate out of Boca, including forthcoming thriller X.
Correo's heavyweight backing should help push Boca even closer to the forefront of the production playing field in Spain, where privately-funded producers such as Lolafilms (70%-backed by Telefonica Media) and Sogecine (housed in Grupo Prisa's media arm, Sogecable) lead the pack.
Benitez is responsible for some of Spain's top grossing feature films, including Cha-Cha-Cha (1997) and Javier Bardem-starrer Between Your Legs (1998). Earlier this week Boca multimedia division Bocainteractiva launched its first-ever internet-only series, Wanted: A Corpse (Se Busca Un Cadaver).