Almodovar, Darin: Brazil's Spanish-language Stars

Garcia Bernal, Campanella also drive B.O. in market giant

RIO DE JANEIRO – Among Spanish-language talent, who has real marquee value in Latin America?

A new study, by indie distributor Ana Luiza Beraba at Brazil’s Esfera Filmes, delivers a clear answer, focusing on Brazil.

As every ten-year-old should know, Brazil speaks Portuguese. It’s a moot question, however, how different the study’s findings would have been if it had looked at the rest of Latin America.

Published in the Rio Festival edition of Filme B, Brazil’s leading trade magazine and primary source of box office analysis, the report surveys Brazilian box office over 2001-12.

During this decade and more, only two Spanish-language figures really opened a movie in Brazil: Spanish director Pedro Almodovar and Argentine leading man Ricardo Darin.

Five of a Top Ten of Spanish-shot movies come courtesy of the Spanish meller-maestro: “The Skin I Live In,” his most radical of recent movies, and a tough-call for more mainstream auds; 2002’s “Talk To Her” (592,559 tix sold); 2011’s “The Skin I Live In” (459,262),  “Broken Embraces” (262,853),  “Volver,” released in 2006 (440,413); and “Bad Education” (332,395).

Three Darin-starrers, from two different directors, figure among the 18 movies which sold 100,000-plus tix in Brazil: Oscar-winning “The Secret in Their Eyes” (328,538 from a 2010 bow) and “The Son of the Bride” (327,748, in 2002), both from Juan Jose Campanella, and 2011’s “Chinese Take-Away,” by Sebastian Borenzstein.

With Almodovar’s movies mostly released in Brazil by Fox, Darin is also mannah for Brazil’s indie distributors, Beraba points out.

Another figure, Mexican actor-director-producer Gael Garcia Bernal may not be able to open a film. Some he’s starred in have tanked.

But ever since Walter Salles’ 2004 “The Motorcycle Diaries,” the highest grossing of Spanish-language movies over 2001-12, punching 929,219 admissions, he has starred in a total four 100,000-plus-tix-sold movies in Brazil: “Diaries,” “Bad Education,” Hector Babenco’s “The Past,” and Carlos Carrera’s “The Crime of Father Amaro (2003, 119,618).

Stat-studded, Beraba’s report paints a cross-grained picture of the state of Spanish-language distribution in Brazil. Releases (17 in 2012) are up, and is so is box office compared to late last decade. But Brazil’s Spanish-language market is down on a decade ago.

Brazil’s big B.O. build has clearly benefitted not only U.S movies but local pics, Beraba’s report suggest.

One moot question is, of course, to what extent prices paid for Brazil are driven these days by theatrical returns or also roll off Brazil’s – and Latin America’s – ever more vibrant pay TV biz. That is most probably the case with big titles.

Despite multiplexing, Brazil’s auds still look quite arty: Only “REC” (170,579 tix) and “”Pan’s Labyrinth” (149,178) of Spanish genre/fantastic fare attracted 100,000 spectators.

So a second head-scratcher is whether Spain’s drive into upscale English or multi-language commercial fare – Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” Enrique Gato’s “Tad, the Lost Explorer” and 3D toon-pic “Foosball,” helmed by Campanella, for once sans Darin, and voice-cast in Portuguese – will open up a new line of business in Brazil for pics from Latin America and Spain, whatever their language.

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