Export biz sees increase in cautious times

Overall more pix selling, but some setbacks exist

Over the last two years, Spain’s film export biz tells a modest success story.

First, the good news.

More films are selling, because Spain has more sales agents. In 1995, the country boasted one established overseas sales house: Sogepaq Intl. Now, Filmax Intl., Lolafilms, Wanda, Latido, Pi Group, KWA, Lumina, El Dorado and El Retiro are pushing local pics.

There’s also been a boost from umbrella orgs. Spain’s ICEX supports minimarket showcases for local titles: the Lanzarote Winter Spanish Film Screenings and the Malaga Market Screenings. Catalonia’s Catalan Films & TV runs a Sitges Sales Office. San Sebastian also has a sales office. The Galicia Audiovisual Consortium launched an Audiovisual Internationalization Plan in November.

Those orgs team with Spain’s ICAA Spanish Film Institute and the FAPAE producers group to back separate or joint stands at Berlin, Cannes and the AFM (Catalan Films & TV teaming with COPCA, Los Angeles). Linking up allows producers/sales agents to scythe attendance costs.

Producers are pushing two genres — English-lingo scare fare (Filmax) and toon pics (Filmax, Dygra) — that need substantial pre-sales as part of their core financing mix.

“Latin America co-productions also sell very well internationally,” says Wanda’s Jose Maria Morales, a leading practitioner. Prices paid are low, but often rep a good chunk of the usually modestly budgeted pics.

In terms of promising sales territories, Brazil is booming. Mexico also is improving, says Pi general manager Geraldine Gonard.

The French periphery — Benelux, Switzerland — is an increasingly good region, reports Latido sales head Massimo Saidel.

Spanish pics are consistently picked up for the U.S.’ straight-to-video market. Venevision Intl. Films alone picks up around 50 titles a year.

New Spanish talent is increasingly familiar abroad, Saidel points out, thanks to Hollywood outings (Paz Vega, “Spanglish”; Elena Anaya, “Van Helsing”). In addition, Latin American pay TV has broadened sales options, and has popularized Spanish TV series and stars on satellite and cable.

But local sales agents must deal with some setbacks, too. Foreign-lingo pics are increasingly disappearing from important timeslots at European broadcasters and payboxes. In the mid-’90s, a top Spanish auteur (aside from Almodovar) could pull in $500,000-plus from Germany. Now, $250,000 would be a good price.

Plus, the straight-to-DVD market is softening. “Films increasingly have to be theatrical titles to make good deals,” says Filmax senior VP Antonia Nava.

And, unlike France, Gonard points out, Spanish companies lack the tentpoles around which to build a sales package. When the local blockbusters are produced, they’re often snatched up by foreign sales agents: TFI has “Alatriste,” Arclight is handling “Tirante El Blanco.”

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