Tad, the Lost Explorer

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain — Already co-producing movies – and far more than is generally imagined – in Spain and Argentina, giant Spanish telco Telefonica is stepping up to the plate, upping the coin, visibility and scale on its investment in film.

Upcoming movies to receive Telefonica investment include Szifron’s “Relatos salvajes,” produced by the Almodovar brothers’ El Deseo and K & S, and “Tadeo Jones 2,” produced by Telecinco Cinema, El Toro Pictures and Ikiru.

Telefonica Studios will oversee Telefonica investment worldwide, coordinating not just production but distribution in Latin America and Europe, where it owns pay TV networks in countries such as Spain, Germany, the U.K. and the Czech Republic, said Ignacio Fernandez-Vega, Telefonica Digital global contents director, at a presentation Monday in San Sebastian.

Working via Telefonica-owned free-to-air broadcast network Telefe in Argentina, plus multiple Telefonica divisions in Spain, Telefonica co-produced 25 films over the last five years. It will now achieve that number in three years, added Telefonica Studios director Axel Kuschevatzky.

Telefonica Studios will also contemplate co-production investment in other countries where it owns pay TV networks, such as Brazil, Peru – where feevee feed clients reached 912,500 – Chile and Venezuela.

It will also use its far-ranging marketing muscle to promote the productions in which it has been involved.

Telefonica faces a regulatory obligation in Spain to invest 5% of its TV revenues into Spanish movies or TV series. In Argentina, Telefe is obliged to co-produce eight movies a year.

But obligation is one thing, commitment another: Telefonica’s commitment now outstrips required investment levels, said Fernandez-Vega.

In movie terms, after years of adopting a low profile in its film investments in Spain, which included “Lope” and “Tadeo Jones” — Monday’s San Sebastian presentation repped a kind of official coming out in corporate society for Telefonica.

Reasons cut several ways. Telefonica has seen spectacular success in recent investments. Four Telefe-backed productions – “Thesis on a Homicide,” “Corazon de Leon,” “Foosball” and 7th Floor” — have topped Argentine charts this year, beating out Hollywood fare. “Tadeo Jones” grossed over $50 million worldwide.

Above all, Latin America now reps 51% of Telefonica revs. Pay TV there shows still large growth potential. If Latin American pay TV behaves anything like U.S. cable, that growth will be driven by original programming, among other factors. HBO and LAP TV are already avid buyers of movies for Latin America. Telefonica is now looking to make a large virtue out of necessity.

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