Spain boosts pic exports

Overseas gross up to $174 million in key territories

MADRID — For the second year running, in 2009 Spanish movies grossed more outside Spain than in their domestic market, according to a study.

Spanish films’ total B.O. in 18 international territories last year was Euros 140. 7 million ($174.2 million), 7% up on 2008, according to a report unveiled Monday by Spain’s Fapae producers’ association. The study sources figures from Rentrak, the European Audiovisual Observatory and Spain Icaa Film Institute

Domestic B.O. for Spanish movies was, in contrast, far lower at $129.2 million, despite an upbeat year for local filmmaking.

Results contrast with France where, for six of the last 10 years, Gallic films domestic B.O. has been significantly higher than overseas grosses.

The number of Spanish film theatrical releases rose 21% in 2009 to 185 while their total print run skyrocketed 71% to a total 16,047 prints.

Argentina saw 22 Spanish film releases, France 20, Mexico 16 and Italy 15, Fapae prexy Pedro Perez announced Monday.

But the U.S. proved the biggest market in 2009 with a $50.1 million B.O. for Spanish films.

As ever, Spanish export stats were driven by one-or-two big titles, such as in 2009 “Planet 51,” lead-produced by Spain’s Ilion Animation Studios, which Sony released on 3,035 prints Stateside Nov. 20 for a $42.2 million gross after 17 weeks.

A second big hitter was U.S. foreign language Academy Award winner “The Secret in their Eyes,” co-produced out of Spain by Gerardo Herrero and Mariela Besuievsky’s Tornasol Films.

Spain produced 186 features in 2009, making it, in production levels, the seventh largest film industry in the world.

But the market share of Spanish films in their home market was a so-so 15.9% last year, comparable to the perf of Brit pics in the U.K. (16.5%), but way below French film in Gaul (37%), or indeed American films in the U.S. (91.8%).

One tentative conclusion, said Perez, is that “we produce too many theatrical films in Spain. We have to make more competitive films.”

With the collapse of Spain’s DVD market, a contraction of Spanish films’ pay TV sales to Spain’s Canal Plus and the near disappearance of distribution minimum guarantees, the way forward for the Spanish film industry is to make films with strong theatrical or international potential, added Gonzalo Salazar Simpson, prexy of Spain’s Asociacion Estatal de Cine, a film producers’ lobby.

At Monday’s Fapae press conference, Spanish actress Belen Rueda announced that “The Secret in Their Eyes” had won the Fapae-Seat Award for the Spanish film with the biggest international impact.

A firm candidate for the plaudit next year could well be Rueda starrer “Julia’s Eyes.” Playing as a 15-minute promo, “Eyes” has proved the star so far of the Madrid de Cine-Spanish Film Screenings, which end Tuesday.

The Sitges Festival announced Monday that “Eyes” will open its October edition.

Previous Sitges openers include “Pan’s Labyrinth” in 2006, “The Orphanage” in 2007 and “Rec 2” last year.

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