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Ramos returns for major slate

'Dot' to be first of 8 Alquimia productions set to bow

MADRID — For nearly a year Alquimia Cinema founder Francisco Ramos, who speaks at just below the speed of sound, has been strangely silent. Now Spain’s most frenetic producer has got a new slate and the old enthusiasm.

Eight Alquimia productions bow during the next year starting with “Dot the I” on Oct. 31.

Many for Alquimia are minority, if high-profile, co-productions: Fidelite’s “Janis & John,” the Taviani brothers’ “Luisa Sanfelice,” the Vincent Cassel/Monica Bellucci starrer “Spy Bound” and Penelope Cruz starrer “Don’t Move.”

The projects point to larger international ambitions. They underscore Spain’s biggest players digging themselves out of a pay TV merger recession. Or at least, rather than just carping about the present, they’re beginning to think about a new, if tougher future. Alquimia’s new portfolio:

  • The e8 million ($9.2 million) vampire actioner “Ines,” marking Alquimia’s entry into English-lingo majority co-production. Helmed by Hollywood d.p. Gabriel Beristain (cinematographer on “Blade 2,” “Blade 3” and “S.W.A.T.”) with a U.K./Spanish cast, pic is being framed as a U.K. co-production, tapping sale-and-lease-back coin. Lensing rolls April/May.

  • A salacious comedy, “Condom Express,” about condom delivery boys, from first-timer Luis Prieto, with Italy’s Cattleya taking 25%. Filming starts in January.

  • A 25% stake in “Vita Nuova,” also with Cattleya. A $5.7 million romantic drama topling Paz Vega and Michaele Placido, it rolls starting in November, possibly shooting in a mix of Spanish and English.

  • From Maria Ripoll (“Tortilla Soup,” “Utopia”), the Spanish-lingo, Barcelona-set “Tu vida en 65 minutos,” written by “Fourth Floor” scribe Alberto Espinosa. It lenses in February.

  • Lensing in March, the $2 million “El Metodo Gronholm,” an adaptation of a play by Marcelo Pineyro (“Kamchatka”).

  • “Vidas pequenas,” criss-crossing lives woven by admired Madrid-based Argentine auteur Enrique Gabriel.

  • Alfonso Albacete and David Menkes’ “Mentiras y gordas,” about women who eat and lie a lot.

Ramos’ comeback reflects the gradual return of pay TV coin to Spanish production. Satcaster Via Digital committed to seven Alquimia films, then failed to pay all the coin on these and older licensed pics, throttling cash flow. “I’ve spent the last year eyeballing accounts,” Ramos says, aghast. “I even gave up going out at night.”

Via’s commitments are now being sorted out by its new owner, Sogecable, Ramos says. Via, itself, no longer exists — it has merged with Canal Plus Espana to become Digital Plus

Alquimia’s slate underscores new Spanish production thrusts. It’s structured around, by Spanish standards, a tentpole. Budgets are tight. Many pics are co-productions. Some need local pay TV finance and are designed to attract it, per Ramos. The most popular or more niche pics could be made without it.

Above all, Ramos’ passion for production is back. Spanish production — and nightspots — will be considerably enlivened.

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