'Espera,' 'Duros,' Gonzalez-Sinde pic on slate

MADRID — The contrast is telling. While French art pic shingles shutter and struggle, Spanish ones are thriving.

Last week, pubcaster France Television moved to close France Television Distribution Cinema. It will be the second French sales company to shutter recently, following the liquidation of Jacques Leglou’s Mercure last year.

Meanwhile, across the Pyrenees, a new sales shingle — Latido — announced its official bow will be Feb. 9 at the Berlin Film Fest.

With Buena Onda and Axiom/ABS, it’s the third Spanish-lingo auteur outfit to launch in 12 months and has a voluminous slate:

  • Spaniard Manuel Gutierrez-Aragon’s Berlin competish player, “La vida que te espera” (Your Next Life);

  • Madrid gangland comedy “Dos tipos duros” (Two Tough Guys), with Elena Anaya (“Van Helsing”);

  • Angeles Gonzalez-Sinde’s corruption drama “La suerte dormida” (Sleeping Fortune);

  • Gerardo Herrero’s “El principio de Arquimedes,” a femme comedy about living, loving and losing in the corporate world;

  • Joaquin Oristrell’s upcoming Freudian mystery drama “Inconscientes” (Unconscious);

  • Colombian auteur Sergio Cabrera’s thriller “Perder es cuestion de metodo”;

  • and two film projects based on Almudena Grandes’ novel “Los aires dificiles.”

Latido is backed by three well-known Spanish art pic producers: Pancho Casal’s Continental, Gerardo Herrero’s Tornasol and Antonio Saura’s Zebra.

Tapping their pics as well as third-party acquisitions, it sidesteps the need for minimum guarantees. Latido will draw down market presence aid from Spain’s ICEX Export Board. Contrast that with French companies, which face contracting overseas art pic markets and need to pony up punitive minimum guarantees to secure top titles.

Latido’s advantage is important: A regional seller in Latin America has high overheads but mostly restricted profit margins. As with the foreign-lingo market at large, sales prices for Spanish films have tumbled since the mid-1990s, bedeviled by European pay TV, Latin American currency devaluation and the collapse of South Korea’s arthouse scene.

But more Spanish films sell to more countries, argues Vision Intl.’s vet film exec Massimo Saidel, who heads Latido sales in a deal between Latido and France’s Vision.

The U.S., the U.K., even Benelux are expanding markets, he argues. Six of the 25 highest-grossing foreign-lingo films in the U.S. over 2002-03 were Spanish or Latin American.

For smaller films, “There’s a huge growth of Spanish-language broadcasters in the U.S. and tremendously good video companies,” Saidel says. “The trick is adding as many territories as you can. If you’re averaging a total $250,000 to $1 million per title, that’s becoming interesting.”

“We’d like to maximize revenues for Spanish-language films, and simply help them to be seen more,” Tornasol producer Mariela Besuievsky says.

Indeed, Latido’s slate suggests it’s willing to explore far-flung avenues. Upcoming pics include Chilean movies, for example.

For Saidel, “There’s a belief and pride that there’s new talent to be grown and promoted.”

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