Euro event attracts Madrid crowds

'Empties,' 'Shoppen,' 'Crying' are popular

MADRID — Jan Sverak’s “Empties,” Ralf Westhoff’s “Shoppen” and Peter Schonau Fog’s “The Art of Crying” proved standouts at PicturEurope!, a showcase of contempo Euro pics that ran April 11-17 in Madrid.

Opening the spread, “Empties,” a mega-hit on Czech home soil, sold out at the city’s Roxy B 500-seater.

“Shoppen,” a breezy speed-dating comedy, and “Crying,” a quirkily comic incest tale, also played to SRO at Madrid’s 175-seater Princesa 4.

Panorama closer, the graveyard-set “Warden of the Dead,” from Bulgaria’s Ilian Simeonov (140 admissions), and Andrea Molaili’s debut, small-town murder thriller “The Girl by the Lake” (157 tickets sold), screened to near-capacity crowds.

All in all, PicturEurope’s Madrid attendance was 50% up on its first Madrid edition last year, said Renata Rose, managing director of European Film Promotion, which co-organized the event with the Cines Princesa.

Showcase’s success played off several factors.

The event came with a jazzily designed and titled brochure, “Come and See What Your Neighbors Are Doing,” dispelling airs of officialdom.

Pics’ selection keyed in on leading filmmakers in national industries, such as Sverak, fest faves — “Crying” was a San Sebastian standout — or titles mixing social issues and genre entertainment.

One upbeat surprise was an 80% capacity crowd for Greek Angeliki Antoniou’s crime drama “Eduart,” from a lesser-known European national cinema.

Pics played at one of the most faithfully frequented of Spanish arthouses, Central Madrid’s Cines Princesa, co-owned by Enrique Gonzalez-Macho, head of the country’s top art pic distributor, Alta Films.

PicturEurope!’s high attendance rates carry a large irony, commenting about the contradictory state of Euro film distribution in Europe.

“One reason for PicturEurope!’s success is that spectators can’t see many of these films outside the showcase,” said Alta head of acquisitions Enrique Gonzalez Kuhn.

The common denominator of “Neighbors” films, apart from their quality, was the fact that absolutely none have snagged commercial distribution to date in Spain.

“The aim of this initiative is to cultivate young audiences for European film by presenting a series of titles, all of which have had success in their home countries, and are regarded as national ‘box office hits,’ ” said Rose.

The bugbear for Spanish art film distribution remains TV. As over most of Europe, TV ratings have plunged for films. Commercial broadcaster Telecinco has given up acquiring movies all together.

Public stations are acquiring films far more sparingly, and when they do plump largely either for big U.S. pics rolled into output deals, or national films that help satisfy broadcaster film investment quotas.

With DVD whammied by piracy in Spain, distributors have to look to make their money back from theatrical, after paying for P&A.

But PicturEurope! suggests at least one way forward for challenged artfilm exhibition.

Opening up extra marketing opportunities, and affording spectators a take on current filmmaking trends, showcases can draw out spectators who might fight shy of attending individual titles.

“EFP’s very pleased with the results this year,” Rose said.

Gonzalez Kuhn agrees. He’d be delighted to host Madrid’s Picture Europe 3 next year, screening films in an even bigger Princesa theater.

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