Local box office favors commercial fare

MADRID — Big Spanish films rule at the Spanish box office. Whether they rule O.K. is another question.

With a Euros 8.2 million ($10.4 million) gross, Alex de la Iglesia’s “The Oxford Murders,” with Elijah Wood, is the highest-grossing Spanish release on home soil, through October, according to Spain’s ICAA Film Institute.

De la Iglesia’s upscale serial killer thriller is followed in the charts by “Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Save the Planet,” a live-action comedy based on popular comicbooks by Francisco Ibanez, which rescued $9.8 million in Spain.

Ranking No. 3 among Spanish hits: Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” with $8.5 million. Fourth and fifth placed are “The Argentine,” the first part of Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” diptych, and Gallic blockbuster “Asterix at the Olympic Games.”

But significant B.O. moolah doesn’t mean the movies’ Spanish producers will be laughing all the way to the bank. That often depends on unpublished producer-distributor deals and the weight of international pre-sales.

The first venture by Spain’s Tornasol Films into higher bracket fare, “Murders” must be seen as a hit by any financing standards. Film’s budget was reportedly modest — around $10 million. And “Murders” sold worldwide.

Another bigger-budget debut, this time by Spain’s Zeta Group, a publishing empire, “Mortadelo” disappointed, coming in nearly $20 million under the Spanish gross for 2003’s “Mortadelo & Filemon: The Big Adventure.”

Set in Spain and eagerly anticipated, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” underperfed somewhat in Spain. But results elsewhere — a $59.7 million trawl worldwide by late November — make it one of Allen’s most successful films in years.

“Argentine’s” $8.3 million is a standout result. Just how much it recoups on its $62 million budget depends on the strength of worldwide sales.

The third part in the comic book franchise, “Asterix’s” Spanish haul is in line with the second part, “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra,” which grossed $8.3 million from a 2002 release. Given rampant online piracy in Spain since then, that’s something of a small triumph.

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