Distrib goes on buying spree

DeAPlaneta's AFM purchases include 'Last Legion,' 'Diva'

MADRID — Asian buyers weren’t the only ones making a splash at the American Film Market.

Spanish production-distribution house DeAPlaneta closed on a hefty seven titles from significant sellers. After a dozen-or-so Cannes acquisitions, the buys confirm DeAPlaneta’s status, in purchasing terms, as Spain’s heavyweight mainstream indie.

Santa Monica shopping included the Dino de Laurentiis-produced “The Last Legion,” and a duo from new guy on the block Bauer Martinez: comedy “I Could Never Be Your Woman,” toplining Michelle Pfeiffer; and John McTiernan’s “Crash Bandits,” with Hayden Christensen.

Mandate Pictures comedy “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” with Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman; Myriad Pictures’ project “Diva,” starring Meg Ryan; the fantasy “Bridge to Terabithia,” from Summit, and Hyde Park’s “Flawless,” complete the major acquisitions.

Most of DeAPlaneta’s competing distribs don’t have the funds or the mandate to buy so heavily. Spain’s highest-grossing indie, TriPictures, has an output deal with New Line; in any event, it has always bought selectively. While not abandoning distribution, second-ranking Filmax Ent. is plowing ever more ambitiously into production.

One DeAPlaneta rival, Manga, reinvigorated by a long outstanding deal with TVE on 22 releases in Spain over 2002-04, showed some AFM aggression, closing Sandra Bullock-starrer “Every Word Is True”; “What Just Happened,” with Robert De Niro; “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”; Paul Verhoeven’s “Black Book”; and “In the Land of Women,” with Meg Ryan. Although Manga was rode rough seas with the collapse of sales to pay TV, strong DVD sales managed to float its ship.

DeAPlaneta has an even stronger ace card than Manga’s, however: itsclose relationship with Spanish broadcaster Antena 3, which is controlled by DeAPlaneta owners, Italy’s DeAgostini and Spain’s Planeta.

Reduced costs and genre fare are also helping the Spanish producer-distrib. “My impression is that prices have descended some 20-30%,” says exec prexy Alvaro Zapata. DeAPlaneta is also pushing the latest trend in Spanish high-end production: period pics.

Sked includes Vicente Aranda’s $15.9 million Byzantine knight comedy, “Tirant Lo Blanc,” which bows Feb. 3. Teaming with Blighty’s Future Films, DeAPlaneta is prepping the $11.7 million court skullduggery pic “La conjura del Escorial,” helmed by Spanish vet director-producer Antonio del Real with an international cast. It is co-financing 17th century romantic comedy “La dama boba,” and taking a minority stake in the $30 million, U.S.-German 11th century adventure story “The Physician.

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