Box office, local production dries up overseas

MADRID The Spanish film biz, which is staring into the abyss as local finance dries up and audiences shun its movies, is nervously analyzing the opening box office figures for Manuel Gomez Pereira’s “El juego del ahorcado” (The Hanged Man).

“Hanged Man,” which preemed abroad at Berlin’s European Film Market, was released Jan. 30 in Spain by Sony on a limited 120 prints, with a strong TV campaign.

It opened as two pillars of local film finance — TV coin and bank loans backed by Spain’s Official Credit Institute — have started to fracture.

Spurred by the success of local miniseries — recently, “The Punishment” took 27% share and “Dias sin luz” nabbed 20% — Spanish broadcasters have been investing more in TV movies and miniseries, and less in features.

Most Spanish subsidy coin is triggered by a film’s B.O. performance. Until films are released, the Official Credit Institute discounts TV contracts and puts up coin allowing banks to offer bridge loans at low-interest rates to producers to get films made.

The Official Credit Institute is set to call for applications shortly, but it’s not clear if the institute’s backing will be enough. “The fear is that the banks won’t lend on Spanish films,” says Kanzaman producer Marc Albela.

If anything can save Spanish cinema — at least in terms of market share at the box office — it is the allure of its major auteurs. Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces,” Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora” and Fernando Trueba’s “The Dancer and the Thief” should all be delivered this spring.

But it was Gomez Pereira who was out of the gates first this year. The helmer occasionally breaks out abroad — “Reinas” made $700,000 in Italy — and his name carries a film in Spain, where he is much better known. Six of his last nine films have grossed north of E2 million ($2.6 million) in Spain, a standout achievement.

“Hanged Man,” a steamy teen thriller that turns on high-school first love, is directed at youth auds. The pic took $329,258 in its first 10 days. That’s not awful, given a snowstorm and strong bows from “Valkyrie” and “Doubt,” but normally a hot local title would perform better, just as Agustin Diaz Yanes’ “Solo quiero caminar,” which opened Oct. 31, should have made more in Spain than $1.4 million.

If “Hanged Man” doesn’t get B.O. traction, the question is, how will the Spanish industry survivein the face of heavy piracy and a public that seems less interested in local fare?

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