Indie distribs fatten ranks

Spanish orgs expand despite biz downturn

MADRID — Spain’s troubled indie distrib sector suddenly boasts a new wave of operators. Some — Notro Films, On Pictures — have just launched. Others — DeAPlaneta, Aurum Producciones — are established ops with greater clout.

At first glance, it seems a strange time to bet on distribution. Certainly, Spain’s indie market has not a lot going for it. Through September, Spain’s indie companies lost 6% of their market share to the U.S. majors in Spain.

While Spain’s dominant pay TV player Sogecable buys few indie features, distribs hope either the nascent cable TV biz or new TV franchises promised by the government will open up more outlets. Yet four companies have made moves:

  • Last spring Aurum, Spain’s distributor of “The Lord of the Rings,” was purchased by Alliance Atlantis, Canadian parent of U.K. distrib Momentum Pics, for e45 million ($55.6 million).

  • On Pics, the production/distribution arm of publishing conglom the Zeta Group, launched in September.

    n Arthouse boutique Notro Films, headed by vet execs Adolfo Blanco and Jose Maria Irisarri, was unveiled at September’s San Sebastian Festival.

  • Under new exec prexy Alvaro Zapata, DeAPlaneta, teaming Spain’s Planeta and Italy’s DeAgostini, has begun purchasing big indie pics such as “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

Why this new ambition? The companies can point to competitive market advantages. DeAPlaneta, Aurum and On have muscular parents. Aurum can make multi-territory buys for Canada, the U.K. and Spain.

DeAPlaneta is talking with Italy’s Mikado for joint acquisitions and can lever its huge strategic plus of a controlling interest in broadcaster Antena 3, which also has an output deal with Aurum. Notro boasts the long experience of Blanco.

Meanwhile, rivals have taken multiple hits. Suspending payments in June, Lauren is down, though not out. It’s prepping a bevy of releases from October, including Christina Ricci thriller “The Gathering.”

One thing seems certain, however. “Whenever a new competitor has launched in Spain, the prices paid for films have gone up,” says Aurum’s Alberto Canizares. By just how much will be seen at the AFM.

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