Forget The Rest, Spaniards Want Those Tv Rights

The American Film Market may still be thought of by some as a market of feature films for theatrical or homevid outlets, but for most Spaniards trekking to L.A. the name of the game is “tv rights,” with or without the theatrical and homevid frosting.

Though the theatrical market in Spain remains healthy, it is almost entirely dominated by the majors. Even the few remaining indie distribs, such as Araba and Iberoamericana, release through UIP. About the sole indie force remaining is Lauren Films, which is surviving in part because it is strongly entering into the exhibition side.

Homevid in Spain is disastersville, with sale of cassettes to video clubs about half of what they were in 1990, so there probably won’t be the usual crush of new video buyers at AFM.

The big boom, of course, has been tv, with the advent of three private webs at the beginning of last year. The deals of the decade have been made over the past half year, mostly with the majors, totaling well over $1 billion in purchase of software film packages by the webs from companies such as Warner Bros., Columbia, MCA, Disney, Orion and ITC.

Over the past few months two new companies have been formed in Spain, principally with an eye to tv rights of films and catalogs. One is ESICMA, whose prexy is producer Elias Querejeta. Company’s director, Carlos de Muns, will be winging to L.A. to look over product and huddle with Yank indies, possibly to acquire product. ESICMA has a potent French audiovisual group as a minority partner, as well as a direct link to major banking groups in Spain to bankroll purchases.

Also flying to L.A. will be Andres Vicente Gomez of Iberoamericana Films, who recently set up a new banner, IDEA, with partners Canal Plus of Spain and Sogetel, the publisher of Spain’s largest daily newspaper El Pais.

Expected to drop in on AFM will be reps from Cinepaq, another major stockpiler of feature films and packages controlled by Jose Vicuna and Alfredo Matas. Majority share of Cinepaq is owned by Canal Plus France.

A fourth group, led by Francisco Gratacos, called Luk International, which recently picked up a package of 77 films from the Samuel Goldwyn Co., will also be on hand to see what can be picked up.

Many of the Yank indie suppliers have already offloaded their catalogs to tv buyers from Spain, but a few companies, such as Hemdale, reportedly still have packages of films available. “I don’t think there’s terribly much left to be bought for Spain,” commented Gratacos. “But one has to go and feel out the market.”

Spain’s biggest remaining indie theatrical distrib, Antonio Llorens, will also be in L.A. to huddle with Yank indies. His Lauren Films previously had the exclusive on Orion product in Spain. When that output deal concluded about a year ago, Llorens made pre-production purchase of various films. He hit the jackpot with such pics as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Wild At Heart” and “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”

Araba Films’ Inaki Nunez will attend the AFM in search of films. Araba now releases through UIP in Spain, as does Iberoamericana.

A few other buyers from Spain may also surface, but chances are they’ll be on the lookout for tv rather than theatrical rights. Nowadays it’s virtually impossible to get good playdates for indie product in Spain, since the clout of the majors increases each year.

And there may be the odd Iberian arthouse distrib dropping in to seek a potential “Sex, Lies And Videotape” or other sleeper. But the big bucks will be shelled out by the new corporations for packages, pre-production deals and possible output deals.

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