Spanish Box Office Edges Up 3% in 2014

Admissions hike 14%, but recovery, compared to calamitous 2013, not robust enough to claim B.O. has bottomed out

MADRID – Powered by local phenom “Spanish Affair” and more audience-friendly ticket pricing, total 2014 Spanish box office edged up 3% vs. 2013 to €522 million ($631.9 million), Rentrak Spain announced Wednesday.

Admissions sky-rocketed, rising 14% year-on-year to 87 million. Figures are thru Dec. 29.

With soft comparables after a disastrous 2013, when Spanish cinema theater revenues fell off a cliff, recovery is not yet robust not broad enough, however, to suggest that Spain’s box office degradation is in any way over. Of particular concern is the near uniform underperformance of young adult movies – read most Hollywood blockbusters but also some Spanish mainstream plays – which have been hit by a perfect storm of mass youth unemployment or low-paid employment and still rampant piracy.

Produced by LaZona Films, Kowalski Films, Snow Films and Telecinco Cinema, whose owner, Spain’s biggest broadcast network Mediaset España, promoted the living daylights out of the movie across its then eight channels, culture clash romcom “Spanish Affair” grossed €56.2 million ($68.3 million), an all-time record for a homegrown movie in Spain.

Driven by “Spanish Affair” and upscale narco-actioner “El Niño” (€16.3 million:$19.8 million) a second Telecinco Cinema co-pro, Spanish movies’ 2014 B.O. market share will come in at 24.9%, the best result since 1977, said Arturo Guillen, VP, Rentrak, EMEA.

Four factors – exhibitors’ pricing markdowns, less 3D movies, cheaper Wednesday admissions, and two three-day cut-price Fiestas del Cine over 2014 – pushed ticket prices down 9.3% to €6.0 ($7.3), per Guillen.

“Spanish producers have found that, if they make the right movie, they can command an audience, and Spanish exhibitors have at least encountered a way to leverage box office attendance,” Guillen said.

Two big Spanish bows – Alejandro Amenabar’s “Regression” and toon pic “Capture the Flag,” from Enrique Gato (“Tad, the Lost Explorer”) should boost Spanish cinema-going in 2015.

What could happen to even the biggest Hollywood fare is another question. Highest-grossing U.S. movies in Spain were “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (€12.9 million; $15.7 million) and “Maleficent” (€12.6 million: $15.3 million), though “Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” (€11.2 million: $13.6 million through Dec. 29, and counting) should overhaul them by early next year.

Beyond piracy, and young Spaniard’s shallow pockets, the large question is whether Hollywood’s hero-focused franchises interest as much in Spain as they once did. With Spanish audiences skewing older, it’s upscale mainstream or more adult fare which over-performed this year in Spain: Two notable examples: Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” (€11.8 million: $14.4 million) and Alberto Rodriguez’s stylish period cop thriller ”Marshland” (€6.0 million: $7.3 million).

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