Spain skeds double dose of terror

Aurum, Amenabar to team on genre pix

MADRID — The horror genre looks set to make waves in Spain as Aurum, the biggest film producer-distributor in the country, and hot young helmer Alejandro Amenabar (“Open Your Eyes”) are lining up genre projects to roll in 1999. The only question is why it hasn’t happened before.

According to Aurum CEO Francisco Ramos, the company is prepping a teen horror franchise, a la “Scream,” to be shot in Spanish with local thesps.

“We have the script for a sequel. If the first movie works, we’ll go straight into production on the second. We’re also looking at spinoff strategies such as merchandising, books or a TV series,” he said.

Not much is known about Amenabar’s next feature, currently in the script stage, save that it is a horror pic; it figures on the production slate of the Sogecable-owned Sogetel; and may be shot in English.

“It’s almost inevitable that Amenabar will end up making films in English,” says Sogetel general manager Fernando Bovaira.

The 25-year-old Amenabar recently confirmed his status as the hottest breakthrough director in Spain with the sale of remake rights to his feature film debut, “Thesis,” to Jim Sheridan and Arthur Lappin’s Universal-based Hell’s Kitchen.

Earlier this year, Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner’s Paramount-based C/W Prods. picked up remake rights to Amenabar’s second pic, “Open Your Eyes.”

Aurum’s plunge into horror is part reaction to the emergence of a young “multiplex generation” in Spain. According to recent research, 28% of Spanish cinemagoers in 1994 were 24 or younger. By 1997 that figure had risen to 47.7%.

These youthful demos appear to appreciate horror. Spanish distrib Tripictures reaped $4.6 million from Mandalay’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” which should place the pic in Spain’s top 20 for this year.

Aurum’s horror pic is part of an eight-pic production slate for 1999.Owned by press baron Antonio Asensio, former chairman of Antena 3 TV, Aurum’s distrib operation Lider will release some 38 films in 1999.

(Benedict Carver in Los Angeles contributed to this report.)

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