Zapata, Gomez launch A.Z. Films

MADRID — Even the toughest sectors offer market opportunities. Or so think two of Spain’s most ambitious film execs, former DeAPlaneta exec prexy Alvaro Zapata and Lolafilms owner and CEO Andres Vicente Gomez, who have teamed to launch indie distribution and production company A.Z. Films.

Zapata will head the Madrid-based A.Z. as its CEO. Salvador Garcia-Atance, the former head of Morgan Stanley in Spain and prexy of Lolafilms when it was under Telefonica ownership, will serve as A.Z.’s honorary prexy. Zapata and Gomez are its leading shareholders; AZ’s remaining equity is held by private investors who work in Spain’s entertainment industry.

A.Z.’s first theatrical release will be in November. Per Zapata, it will open a video division, TV sales op and international sales arm some four to five months later. Weakened by piracy, a soft DVD market and sparse sales to TV, Spain proved one of the toughest sells of any major territory at the Cannes Festival. “But we think there’s still a gap in the market,” Zapata says. As a distributor, A.Z. plans to target the kind of film which still sometimes notches exceptional B.O. in Spain: edgy genre or exceptional upscale fare.

Zapata points to “Downfall” and “Saw 2,” which he distributed at DeAPlaneta; the pics grossed $4.3 million and $4.5 million, respectively, in Spain. “Match Point” made a remarkable $9.5 million. A.Z. will also distribute the Spanish films it produces with third parties, plus pics produced by Gomez at Lola or Iberoamericana, and by Zapata at Nada Music, his record company which is now moving into film production.

Nada’s first three pics are “Quiereme” by Argentinian Beda Docampo, Josechu San Mateo’s “Atraco en la Nacional” and Jose Luis Garci’s “Luz de domingo.” All roll this year.

But Zapata’s priority is launching a strong distribution operation. “Our first-year release slate will run to 10 films, then 15 from year two. We’ll be looking to distribute Spanish, European and U.S. indie fare,” Zapata says.

That’s the business model. Yet there’s another reason for the creation of A.Z. From a young age, Zapata has worked for other people: at Jose Frade P.C., Lauren Films, BVI Spain and DeAPlaneta. He now has a chance to be far more his own man. Redoubtably independent, Gomez finally bought back Lolafilms from Telefonica in 2004, so as to greenlight his own films.

“A.Z. is a project which I’ve waited all my life to launch, something which in part is mine,” Zapata says.

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