B.O. gross of local pix up 68% in first half of 2011

The local box office gross for Spanish pics leapt 68% to €51 million ($76.2 million) in the first half of this year, according to Spanish website BoxOffice.es.

That surge was powered by “Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis,” written, directed, starring and produced by Santiago Segura. The fourth part of Segura’s scumbag cop saga scored a boffo $29.4 million in Spain.

Local movies took a 17% first-half share, but this hasn’t been a one-man show.

“Red Eagle, the Movie,” a spinoff of a hit TV swashbuckler set in the 7th century, drew B.O. blood with $4.9 million.

Some co-productions performed very well. Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” produced by New York’s Gravier Prods. and Barcelona’s Mediapro, scored $8.9 million. Ricardo Darin starrer “Chinese Take-Away,” co-produced by Argentina’s Pampa Prods., Spain’s Tornasol Films and Castafiore Films, grabbed $1.3 million in its first 10 days through June 26.

There looks to be a limit to audience appetite for what was seen as winning tactics for Spanish films by late 2010: TV stars taking lead film roles; broad dramas and comedies; and mixing nudity and muscular marketing.

Several titles underperformed in the second quarter, when the B.O. for local films was 5% up on 2Q 2010. BoxOffice’s Pau Brunet points to the $1.5 million take for “What’s a Bear For?” with Gonzalo Castro, star of TV series “Doctor Mateo,” and the $1.5 million trawl for “Don’t Call It Love…Call It XXX,” about the making of an epic Spanish porn movie.

Spanish cinema now fires on several cylinders. Its 2011 top five hits are highly distinctive: “Torrente 4,” a gross-out blockbuster; “Even the Rain,” an international production set in Bolivia, directed by Spaniard Iciar Bollain and written by British scribe Paul Laverty; Allen’s “Midnight”; “Primos,” a socially barbed youth drama; and swashbuckler “Red Eagle.”

That said, a 17% market share, while good for Spain, would be regarded as so-so for Germany, low for Italy and a disaster in France.And Spain’s B.O. also suffers from rampant piracy.

Three 3D films ranked in Spain’s first-half top five: “Torrente 4,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” ($26.6 million) and “Tangled” ($20.6 million).

That, however, may be a coincidence. Brunet said that 3D films are drawing increasingly smaller audiences.

The BoxOffice report points out that films targeting older auds — “Midnight,” “Take-Away” or, beyond Spanish films, Guillaume Canet’s “Little White Lies” — $2 million through July — often performed surprisingly well, “filling a space nobody else is paying attention to,” Brunet said. “And their spectators, who are urban-based and cultured, still see filmgoing as a cultural act and are less likely to pirate films than younger spectators.”

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