With drop in market share, focus shifts

MADRID — Spain’s indie distribs face a tough climate at home but have learned to adapt.

B.O. grosses rose 6.1% from January through June. But, according to Nielsen EDI, indie distributors’ market share plunged from 33.5% to 23.3%.

“Middle-range titles are clunking. We’ll have to focus on bigger films, launching them like a studio, or smaller titles, with other marketing strategies,” says Yolanda del Val, head of acquisition and sales at DeAPlaneta.

Pay TV giant Sogecable is picking up only indies’ biggest titles; free-to-air channels generally aren’t interested in indie product.

“You no longer sell big film packages to TV in Spain,” says Filmax acquisitions head Jorge Tuca.

Piracy has weakened DVD, but video-on-demand offers an increasingly serious alternative.

“VOD’s the future. It will allow the possibility of continually having films on offer,” claims Notro CEO Adolfo Blanco.

Variety runs down Spain’s main indie players, what they’re buying and how they’re using market muscle:

Manga Films

Spain’s top indie distrib from January through July grossed E14.6 million ($18.8 million) with hits “Crash” ($10.5 million) and “Good Night, and Good Luck” ($4.4 million). Acquired in July by Spanish telco-media-tech giant Avanzit for $36 million. Recent pickups include Russell Crowe starrer “Tenderness” and crime story “Mr. Brooks.” Production arm Media Films co-produced Bigas Luna’s “Yo soy La Juani!”

Tripictures

Headed by prexy Felipe Ortiz, CEO Pepe Hueva and VP Luis Ortiz, Tripictures had grossed $18.7 million by July. Its biggest hit was Bruce Willis/ Josh Hartnett thriller “Lucky Number Slevin” ($4.8 million). Distrib has an output deal with New Line that was inked in 2001. Spanish conglom Vocento bought an unrevealed majority stake in Tripictures in June. Initiated international co-production with a 15% stake in “Asterix at the Olympic Games.”

Filmax Entertainment

Barcelona-based mini-major Filmax Entertainment collected $18.5 million and a 4.2% market share through July, driven by “Underworld: Evolution” ($5.1 million). Focusing on international pic production, including “Perfume” and Brad Anderson’s upcoming “Trans-Siberian,” Julio Fernandez’s company is buying more selectively, taking star-driven pics with $20 million-plus budgets. Recent pickups: Lakeshore thriller “The Dead Girl”; “The Feast of Love,” toplining Morgan Freeman; drama “April 23.”

Alta Films

Spain’s top specialty/crossover distribution house grossed $9 million by July. Best performer: Jose Luis Cuerda’s “The Education of a Fairy” ($2 million). Also a producer and exhibitor, Enrique Gonzalez Macho’s company will try to build share with Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” animated fable “De Profundis” and Dito Montiel’s “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints.”

Aurum

Owned by Alliance Atlantis subsid Motion Picture Distribution, Aurum (along with Manga) was the only indie mainstream distributor registering a year-on-year B.O. increase through July, garnering $8.2 million, driven by Uma Thurman starrer “Prime” ($2.6 million). Next releases: comedy “Grandma’s Boy,” “The Illusionist,” action thriller “Crank” (Oct. 6) and Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto” (Christmas). Among recent acquisitions is Mike Newell’s “Love in the Time of Cholera.”

DeAPlaneta

Under managing director Gonzalo Martin and Del Val, production-distribution house DeAPlaneta is maintaining its aggressive buying plan, despite the departure in March of Alvaro Zapata. Recent buys: Nicolas Cage gangster thriller “Bangkok Dangerous,” from Initial Entertainment Group, Summit’s thriller “P2″ and, from Lionsgate Intl., “Daybreakers” and “Devil to Pay.” In a poor first seven months, DeAPlaneta grossed $6.15 million, led by the company’s biggest production bet, “Tirante El Blanco” ($1.96 million).

On Pictures

Launched in September 2004 by publishing conglom Zeta Group, On Pictures’ best has been Woody Allen’s November 2005 release “Match Point,” which took a remarkable $9.8 million. Allen’s latest, “Scoop,” opening Oct. 27, could save the year, although it failed to match “Point’s” take in other markets.

Golem Distribucion

One of Spain’s principal arthouse distribs, also an exhibitor and producer, Golem grossed $3.6 million through July. It did well with Argentine drama “Agua” ($1.2 million). Coming releases: “Grbavica,” “Offside,” “Elementary Particles” and “Quinceanera.”

Notro Films

Popular arthouse shingle specializing in low-budget and Argentine films, Notro grossed $3.6 million, with Italian comedy “Manuale d’Amore” ($2.1 million) as its best release. Bowing Oct. 20, “Copying Beethoven” is Notro’s biggest title to date. Run by CEO Adolfo Blanco, Notro is also a film/TV producer and international sales agent.

Eurocine Films

Mainly a European film indie distributor with a strong DVD operation, Francisco Giro’s Eurocine is stepping up its number of acquisitions, distributing around 40 titles theatrically this year, some 50 in DVD rental and nearly 160 in DVD sell-through. Among coming theatrical releases: “Beyond the Sea” (Oct. 20), “Pledge This!” (Nov. 3) and “A Little Trip to Heaven” (Nov. 24). Acquisitions head Mark Holdom says Eurocine’s most recent pickup is arthouse omnibus pic “All the Invisible Children.”

Versus Entertainment

Madrid-based production/distribution company Versus debuted theatrically Sept. 22 with Rodrigo Garcia’s femme drama “Nine Lives,” a pickup from L.A.’s Conquistador Worldwide Media. Led by vet film and pay TV exec Alejandro Miranda and acquisitions head Adrian Guerra, Versus has just taken Rian Johnson’s “Brick” from Focus Features, plus Sebastian Cordero’s “Cronicas.”

A.Z. Films

Alvaro Zapata and Lolafilms owner Andres Vicente Gomez launched this distribution/production company in July. As a distributor, A.Z. targets edgy genre or exceptional upscale fare and will distribute the Spanish films it produces with third parties, plus pics produced by Gomez. A.Z. will bow theatrically in November.

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