Spanish market slowly recovering thanks to new tech

Spanish sales agents are finally seeing rays of hope after what one exec dubs the recession-forged “vale of tears.”

Prices paid by foreign distributors are still way down from a decade ago, but “the market is slowly recovering,” says Latido Films’ Silvia Iturbe, as “new technologies like VOD are finally generating bankable revenue streams.”

Film Factory’s Vicente Canales believes opportunities exist as the majors have wound down their specialty arms: “Distributors are looking for big titles and something special, to complement their slates.”

Spain’s sales sector plays to several strengths. In search of vital foreign coin, local producers increasingly tailor their productions to the world market, illustrated by a growing commitment to smart genre films.

“No other category of Spanish film generates as much interest abroad as Spain’s horror genre,” claims DeAPlaneta exec Gorka Bilbao.

Spanish-Italian media conglom DeAPlaneta, a controlling shareholder in top commercial web Antena 3, is selling psycho thriller “Blind Alley” by Antonio Trashorras, who co-scripted Guillermo del Toro’s “Devil’s Backbone.”

Film Factory, launched in December by Canales, has a lineup that mines original genre pics from young directors and more important productions from helmers with an auteurist imprint, says Canales.

Factory’s Cannes slate features Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego’s action pic “Inertia” and “The Path,” co-written by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.

Also strong on smart genre, Barcelona powerhouse Filmax is repping Jaume Balaguero’s $9 million “Sleep Tight,” starring Luis Tosar, and pre-selling “(REC) 3 Genesis” by Paco Plaza.

Meanwhile, Kevin Williams of Madrid-based KWA is complementing a nine-pic slate from Spain and Latin America with a new Asian catalog, including the Mo brothers’ slasher “Macabre” and Dennis Law’s “Vampire Warriors.”

Latido’s Iturbe believes the market is more receptive to Spanish-language films following the worldwide success of Argentina’s 2009 Oscar-winner “The Secret in Their Eyes.”

At Cannes, Latido will rep this year’s Argentine B.O. sensation, comedian Sebastian Borensztein’s “Chinese Take-Away,” like “Eyes,” co-produced by Spain’s Tornasol and starring Ricardo Darin. Pic has grossed some $2.7 million through April 13.

Based out of a traditionally frail, now piracy-wracked, home market, many Spanish companies dedicate much energy to sell films from their powerful production/TV owners.

Only Madrid-based 6 Sales makes regular English-language pickup forages, including, on its Cannes slate, Mateo Gil’s “Blackthorn” (which played Tribeca), Sean Stone’s paranormal thriller “Greystone,” Ian Power’s “Runway” and Ignacio Ferreras’ Spanish-language toon “Wrinkles.”

“Twenty years ago, Spain didn’t have English speakers in the business. Now people know how to make pics that work globally,” says 6 Sales founder Marina Fuentes.

Sales companies inevitably reflect their owners’ corporate culture — in the case of Madrid-based Imagina Intl. Sales, it’s happy with sister shingle Mediapro’s taste for high-profile helmers and young directors.

Imagina reps Cannes opener “Midnight in Paris,” which pre-sold to all major territories.

“Woody Allen is a safe bet in the market for buyers and sellers,” says Imagina’s head of film sales, Beatriz Setuain. ” ‘Midnight’ is a perfect fit for our strategy of working with famous directors, name casts and films shown in A-list festivals.”

Imagina will also be screening Spanish comedy “What’s a Bear For?,” from director Tom Fernandez, who has moved from TV into film.

Vertice Sales is owned by Vertice, a listed production-distribution-facilities company with broad interests.

“There’s space in the market for three main kinds of Spanish-originated films,” says Gonzalo Sagardia of Vertice Sales. “High-concept pics, genre movies and classic auteur films.”

Vertice’s slate includes all three, toplined by Antonio Banderas’ $14 million “Solo,” shooting late this year, plus Carlos Saura’s upcoming musical drama “Amor de dios” and a cluster of genre pics led by Koldo Serra’s buzzed-about zombie-thriller “Dead Perros.”

SPOTLIGHT: SPANISH CINEMA
Hits trump Spain’s pirates | Law forces rookie nets to pump coin into film | Almodovars rekindle Riviera relationship | Sales execs play up local pic strengths | Case studies | Battling the behemoth | Madrid’s mondo move | Talent on the verge | Choice on Croisette

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