Spain: Majors mired in slump, but indie players pile on

Territory Reports

B.O. cume (through August): $275 million*
Top title: “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” (Fox in Sweden, Denmark and Norway; FS Film in Finland; Sema in Iceland; cume: $19.3 million)
*total for Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden

“Inland Empire” (Triangelfilm)
“Lassie” (Svensk Filmindustri)
“The Tiger and the Snow” (Nordisk Film)
“Vers le sud” (NonStop Entertainment)
“Volver” (Sandrew Metronome Intl.)

“Johnny Was”: Multiracial thriller set in a violent under-world turning upon itself. Pic tells the story of a clash between London’s two most dangerous cultures — Jamaican drug gangs and dissident Irish republicans. A Danish-U.K.-Irish co-production helmed by Mark Hammond and toplining Vinnie Jones, Gerard McSorley and Samantha Mumba. In post. (Nordisk Film Sales)
“Moreno and the Silence”: The third film in the Van Veeteren series, based on Swedish bestselling crime novels by Hakan Nesser. Published in more than 20 countries, the character will be introduced Stateside and in the U.K. this fall. Helmer Erik Leijonborg is known for his TV work; lead thesp Sven Wollter is one of Sweden’s most popular actors. (Svensk Filmindustri)
“My Man the President”: With the third film in his U.S. trilogy on hold, helmer Lars von Trier tackles a Danish-language comedy about an IT firm that hires a failed actor to play the part of its company prexy. Stars Jens Albinus and Iben Hjejle. Production slated to start in February. (Trust Film Sales)

MADRID — Spain’s box office fell off a dramatic 12.8% through Sept. 30 vs. the same period last year. Admissions dove 16.4%.

Surprisingly, U.S. majors fared worse than local distribs, with studio market share dropping from around 78% to 69%. Exhibitors expected better from “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” ($23 million), “War of the Worlds” ($20 million) and “Batman Begins” ($8.6 million).

Spanish indie distribs’ B.O. take climbed from $130 million in the same period last year to $165 million, boosted by “Million Dollar Baby” ($15.1 million), “Alexander” ($13.3 million) and “The Brothers Grimm” ($5 million). Excluding international co-productions such as “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Sahara,” local product has largely flopped, save for rare exceptions: “The Longest Penalty in the World” ($6.1 million), “Tapas” ($4.5 million) and “Princesses” ($4.7 million).

Bucking the trend, however, Santiago Segura’s action-comedy “Torrente 3: The Protector” broke all-time first-weekend records when it bowed a month ago, grossing $8.7 million.

Even so, exhibs don’t expect the box office to make up its shortfall by year’s end. They’re beginning to talk of other reasons, beyond product, for the B.O. collapse, such as vidgaming, Internet and piracy.

Those are youth and mass audience preoccupations, however. Spain’s arthouse market, targeting a more mature demo, is on a rebound.

There are more indie players in the market these days. Four niche distrib companies bowed recently: Jose Luis Fernandez Caldas’ Gaia Films, Pere Domenech’s Stardis Pictures, Ramon Colom’s Sagrera and Javier Asenjo’s Bistel Films. And specialty indies Golem Distribucion and Diorama are upping buys.

DeAPlaneta’s move into the mainstream under exec prexy Alvaro Zapata has opened market space for new entrants, and niche films rep lesser risk. “If an arthouse film works, you can recoup from theatrical alone,” says Asenjo.

“There’s an audience for ground-breaking product. You can buy two or three titles for the price of one larger film and control their marketing better,” echoes Adolfo Blanco, CEO of indie distrib Notro Films.

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