New Fantastic Factory kicking off with 'REC'

MADRID — Filmax Ent., Spain’s biggest pic production/sales house, is launching a label, the New Fantastic Factory. The brand bows with a genre quartet: “REC,” from Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza; Plaza’s third solo feature, “Circus,” about an American family trapped in a deadly desert circus; Tinieblas Gonzalez’s “Underground” (in post) and Daniel Benmayor’s “Paintball.”

As in the U.S., success for international horror titles is often dependent on theatrical business.

“Pay TV is not brilliant, as most of the platforms have merged,” says Gael Nouaille, an exec at Wild Bunch, which sold hit Spanish chiller “The Orphanage” worldwide, including a U.S. pickup by Picturehouse. “DVD sales are plunging in Japan and now Brazil; free TV is limited. Horror films aren’t considered family fare, and broadcasters are buying less films for less money. So horror titles are driven by theatrical. If a film’s well-positioned theatrically, the TV figures will be better too.”

Launched in 1998, Filmax’s original Fantastic Factory was schlocky, with titles like Stuart Gordon’s “Dagon, Sect of the Sea” and Brian Yuzna’s “Beyond Re-Animator.” Pics proved homevid hemoglobin hits from Missouri to Melbourne. Theatrical was a bonus.

But straight-to-ancillary strategies no longer hold. And Filmax’s home market Spain is imploding, withered by Internet usage (up 46% last year) and vidgame sales (up 18% vs. a 10% increase for Western Europe).

Filmax has reacted on multiple fronts, downscaling domestic distribution and opening up its production slate. At the Sitges fest, it proudly displayed a billboard for “Diary of a Sex Addict,” an adaptation of a sexy Euro chicklit book.

And its Fantastic Factory’s getting a makeover.

“In nine years, the international market’s evolved dramatically. Filmax has to make films that are both global and theatrical,” Filmax chairman Julio Fernandez says. “That means bringing something different, original and innovative to the table.”

So the New Fantastic Factory mixes it up, combining tried-and-tested talent — Balaguero (“Darkness,” “Fragile”) and Plaza  (“Romasanta”) —  with debutants Gonzalez, a classic goth-horror short-film maker, and Benmayor, who directed PS3 commercials in Spain.

The first-timers’ pics rest on classic premises. In “Underground,” graffiti artists escape down subway galleries from security guards, to encounter a half-human creature. “Paintball” turns on a corporate weekend where the paintball bullets are real.

Filmax can play off a post-“Pan’s Labyrinth” feeding-frenzy for Spanish scare fare.

“Rec,” the only completed film of the four, a zombie movie-cum-reality TV satire, has been acquired by Screen Gems for a remake.

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