Production unit aims for English-lingo pics

LONDON — Spanish movie mogul Andres Vicente Gomez has launched Lola Films UK, based in London, to spearhead his drive into English-language production.

The move marks an ambitious attempt by Gomez, backed by giant Spanish telco Telefonica, to reach beyond Spain and become a mainstream international player.

The venture will be run jointly by Nicole Mackey, who will handle foreign sales, and Nadine Luque, who will be in charge of development and production.

Former UIP exec Tony Themistocleous will take the role of executive consultant and will help negotiate U.S. distribution deals for Lola’s pics.

Gomez has dabbled occasionally in English-lingo pics, but the launch of Lola UK represents his first long-term commitment to international production.

His recent alliance with Telefonica, which took a 33% stake in Lola, has given him the financial muscle to expand his horizons after four decades of ups and downs as an indie producer and distributor in Spain.

Gomez was not available for comment. But he previously stated “the major challenge now for the Spanish film industry (is) to sell our films in the international market, and to do that we need to make films in English as well as in Spanish.”

Lola UK’s debut slate has a strong Hispanic flavor, with pics featuring either Spanish talent or Latin themes. Movies include a $15 million Fu Manchu project directed by Alex de la Iglesia, Susan Seidelman’s Barcelona comedy “Gaudi Afternoon,” Franc Roddam’s “The Girl From Rio” and two possible Fernando Trueba projects — one a remake of the 1947 RKO classic “They Won’t Believe Me” and the other an unspecified British pic.

The company aims to draw on the Hispanic talent pool, especially directors and actors, for many of its projects, but will also seek films with no Latin connection.

Meanwhile, Gomez is not abandoning Spanish production, and Lola UK will handle foreign sales on his biggest Spanish-lingo pics.

Mackey, who worked for Rank Film Distributors before joining J&M Entertainment last year as a consultant, is one of the most experienced foreign sales execs on the London scene.

Nuque, who is half-Spanish, is a former managing director of the Arista story editor workshops in the U.K.

Lola UK will be unveiled formally at the Cannes Film Festival, although it will not start selling its slate until Mackey takes up her post in the summer.

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