Soccer club inks Real deal

Beckham expected to be pic's draw; Sogepaq takes all rights

Real Madrid, the richest soccer club in the world after Manchester United, is entering the pic business with “Real, the Movie,” which will mix fictionalized drama and docu footage.

Sogepaq, one of Spain’s biggest sales and distribution companies, has taken all rights and will be introducing the movie to buyers at Cannes.

Soccer ace David Beckham is expected to be the film’s draw — a huge poster of him strung up on the Riviera and he is featured prominently in a trailer for the film. Pic features other famous soccer stars, including Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo.

Sogepaq aims to have it in Spanish theaters by early fall, playing off pre-season soccer fever. “Real, the Movie” is just days out from finishing its shoot.

Pic will cross-cut among five story lines, set in New York, Madrid, Tokyo, Caracas and a village in Senegal, with footage of Real Madrid’s soccer players in training, during physiotherapy and on last year’s Asian tour.

The fictional elements, making up some half of the movie, aim to illustrate the ideals, ethos and clout of the club.

In the Tokyo segment, for instance, a girl who cuts her hair like Beckham, tries to meet the star when he was playing an exhibition match in the city last year.

The U.S. drama strand has a femme university soccer player facing retirement after an injury, a predicament suffered by Ronaldo after a serious ligament operation three years ago.

Directed by Borja Manso from a screenplay by Andres Koppel (“Intact”) and shot in DV, “Real, The Movie” is produced by Real Madrid Television, the production arm of the club, and Spanish indie outfits Peliculas Pendleton and Huckleberry Films.

“The film captures a team with one of the most spectacular lineups in the world, is complete and quite complex and has huge promotion potential,” said Sogecine/Sogepaq director of production and international Simon de Santiago.

Real Madrid will present the film during its international tour this summer.

It also serves as one answer to a paradox faced by Real Madrid and other soccer clubs. As a brand, Real Madrid is as well known outside the U.S. as Disney. Beckham attracts more press coverage than compatriot Prince William.

But, split between ticket sales (26%), TV deals (36%) and marketing (38%), per a Deloitte report, Real Madrid’s annual revenues are those of a smallish broadcaster: e236 million ($300 million) for the 2003/04 season.

International TV deals may yield some growth in revenues, but increased income from ticket sales will be limited.

Movie production offers a natural way to cash in on the celebrity of Real Madrid’s players and its international fan base at a time when Europe’s biggest clubs compete off-field to buy the world’s best players and biggest stars.

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