Telefonica takes Lola stake

MADRID — Spanish telco Telefonica has sealed its deal to buy a 33% stake in top indie production house Lola Films, controlled by Andres Vicente Gomez.

The move, first mooted in February, helps create a formidable film alliance covering film and TV production, distribution and international sales, which will rival Sogecable production outfit Sogetel and rights-brokering company Sogepaq as the premier film axis in Spain.

According to Telefonica sources, this rare direct incursion of a telecom in indie production will enable Telefonica to source top local pics and series for its digital TV platform Via Digital, which is skedded to launch mid-September. It also will further an alliance through Lola with Spain’s premier CD-ROM producer Planeta, which has 24% in Lola Films. Financing institution Gestcapital has taken 10% in the company; Gomez controls the remaining shareholding.

“We want to function as a mini-studio, controlling production, distribution, video and new markets such as digital TV,” Gomez said.

For Gomez, a telco teaming allows Lola a wide enough capital base to ride out the vagaries of film funding in Spain, especially sudden halts from Spain’s free broadcasters in acquiring Spanish pics.

Lola launched international sales arm Lola Films Intl. at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Movies in the Lola Films hopper include new features from Vicente Aranda, Fernando Trueba (a comedy, “The Girl of Your Dreams”), Alex de la Iglesia (“The Return of Fu-Manchu,” which Gomez budgets at $20 million) and Victor Erice.

Gomez also has formed Lola Accion, a joint venture with top TV presenter Paco Lobaton, to handle TV production. It still remains to be seen how Lola Films will intervene in film distribution. The broad idea is to create a film brokering house for Spanish films, and move beyond that into theatrical film distribution.

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