Distribs look for deep discounts

Prices paid by distributors for Spain have dropped 10%-15%, they claim. But, the distribs add, that’s not enough to salvage one of the toughest indie markets in Western Europe.

“Prices should come down by 30%,” says Adolfo Blanco, head of film at conglom Vertice 360. After all, he argues, Spanish broadcasters are paying at least 30% less for films these days.

Indeed, films are depreciating in value for broadcast network TV in many countries. A lack of pay TV pickups of indie pics has exacerbated matters. Spanish online piracy — an estimated 527 million movie downloads in 2008 — completes Spanish woes.

Despite a 4% fall in Spanish B.O. last year, theatrical remains the mainstream indie distributors’ largest mainstay.

“To survive, you must cut overheads and P&A costs,” says Alejandro Bana, managing director at European Dreams Factory, a new Madrid/Seville-based production and distribution company.

A strengthening greenback is also causing problems.

“We’ve been buying, although cautiously, because of U.S. dollar weakness. If the dollar rally holds, our offer prices for films will come down,” says DeAPlaneta head of acquisitions and sales Yolanda del Val.

Spain’s film industry is at least hopeful it can improve on 2008’s 14% Spanish pic domestic market share, with bows including Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces,” Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora,” Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s sequel to horror hit “REC” and films from younger helmers such as Alberto Rodriguez (“After”) and Daniel Sanchez Arevalo (“Fats”).

“International sales of Spanish films will have a good year,” forecasts Imagina Intl.’s film sales head, Beatriz Setuain.

According to Setuain, Latin America is traditionally the most receptive market for Spanish films, while the wide range of U.S. niche distributors makes it easier to sell pics Stateside.

German and French buyers are receptive to Spanish auteur titles. The U.K. offers openings for genre films, as does Japan. Eastern Europe is becoming an increasingly interesting market for Spanish sellers.

However, “The prices paid for much Spanish cinema are sagging,” says Carlos Rojano, Filmax Entertainment business general manager. At the same time, the international market has polarized: “If you’ve got the right movie, you can get good returns. If not, you won’t sell it even if you virtually give it away,” Rojano asserts.

Sales agents are still betting on Spanish films, however, including David Castellanos, a former sales exec at Latido Films, who has just launched Cinema Republic, which is focused on the international sale of DVD and TV rights.

Among the high-profile projects at this year’s EFM is “Solo quiero caminar” (Just Walking), a femme-driven thriller helmed by Agustin Diaz Yanes (“Alatriste”) with an all-star Latino cast: Diego Luna, Victoria Abril, Ariadna Gil and Pilar Lopez de Ayala. Pic, which is being sold by Filmax Intl. and which nabbed 11 Spanish Goya Award noms, will unspool in Berlin’s Panorama and will be screened for the first time to buyers at the Berlin market.

Another buzz title is “Eva” (Eve), a robot coming-of-ager set in 2028. The $6.5 million project is backed by ICIC Catalan subsidy board as part of its new policy of supporting high-profile projects with international ambitions. Helmed by first-timer Kike Maillo, pic’s April release will take place in Argentina, Switzerland and Catalonia.

Produced by Escandalo Films, a company strongly linked to prestigious Catalan film school Escac, “Eve” reteams key crew members of smash hit “The Orphanage,” including f/x specialist Lluis Castells. French sales agent Wild Bunch has a first-look option on the pic, says Escandalo’s producer, Sergi Casamitjana.

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