Homegrown heroes

Spanish pics nab 16% of B.O. market share

MADRID — The Spanish film industry has never had it so good. Or not at least for the last 15 years, according to statistics published by Spain’s ICAA Spanish Film Institute.

Spanish pics took a 16.4% theatrical market share over the first five months of 1999. Analysts have to go back to 1984 for a full year when domestic pics clinched a bigger market share — 21%.

Local pic market share dipped to 7%-9% in the 1992-94 period, then edged up to 12%-13% for three of the last four full years.

Auteur theory

Some reasons for Spain’s enhanced market share seem clear: All four of Spain’s top mainstream auteurs bowed new films in late 1998 or early 1999. In contrast, of U.S. releases, only “A Bug’s Life” ($11.8 million) grossed significant B.O. over the same period.

In the January to May period, local big guns Alex de la Iglesia (“Dying of Laughter,” $6 million from January to May), Pedro Almodovar (“All About My Mother” $4.4 million), Fernando Trueba (“The Girl of Your Dreams,” $4 million) and Manuel Gomez Pereira (“Between Your Legs,” $3.3 million) all fired off powerful B.O. fusillades.

The other top grossing foreign pics in Spain in the January-May 1999 period were upscalers “Life Is Beautiful” ($13.8 million) and “Shakespeare in Love” ($9.9 million).

With “The Phantom Menace” set to launch today on a record 350 copies, most local industryites predict Spanish pics’ final market share for 1999 coming in around last year’s 12%.

Trend to continue

But nobody now sees Spain’s pic revival as a fluke. Factors favoring the renaissance include the emergence of new directors, far more aggressive marketing and changed attitudes toward local pics from cinemagoers.

A recent study by SGAE, an authors’ rights org, suggested that core audiences for films in Spain are people younger than 35, especially in the 21-24 bracket, who belong to Spain’s upper or upper-middle-classes, and who have a college education.

In the ’80s, educated Spaniards rejected local filmmaking for its terrible gross-out comedies or (for them) tedious social-conscience movies. Young educated Spaniards now seem to identify far more with local pics and are increasingly discriminating about imports.

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