8 apellidos vascos Spanish Affair

Romantic comedy taps into craving for comedy, underscores the importance of TV partners in promotion

MADRID –Distributed by Universal Pictures Intl. Spain, Spanish romantic comedy “8 apellidos vascos” (Spanish Affair) has punched the best domestic opening of any film this year: grossing €2.83 million ($3.9 million) off 400 screens its first three days, per Rentrak.

“Affair’s’” first weekend is also the best for any Spanish film in nearly a year and a half, since Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” made an extraordinary four-day opening of $13.1 million – on its way to a final $54.5 million trawl.

Vicente Canales’ Film Factory has acquired international rights to the comedy hit.

What’s particularly impressive about “Affair’s” bow is its timing. At least 23 movies bowed to €5 million plus in Spain over 2006-12.

That was then. Spain’s box office sagged terribly in 2013, as the consequences of crisis bit ever deeper into Spanish wallets, and has shown little recovery this year: Of high-profile titles, “300: Rise of an Empire” set the bar for the best bow in 2013 with $3.7 million. “The Wolf of Wall Street” grossed a first-frame $3.6 million, Scorsese’s biggest bow ever in Spain; “The Lego Movie” made $2.0 million.

Helmed by vet Emilio Martinez-Lazaro, written by Diego San Jose and Borja Cobeaga, who made a highly promising debut with 2009’s “Pagafantas,” “Affair” turns on Rafa, who’s never once thought of leaving his beloved Seville in Spain’s deep south until he meets Amaia, from a village in the Basque Country, in Spain’s deep North. Rafa is willing to perform the impossible to conquer her: leave Seville or pretend to be Basque.

For decades, one way Spanish filmmakers put down a film was to call it “very commercial.”

“ ‘Spanish Affair’ is a clear example of the new Spanish cinema that doesn’t have any problem is being thought of as entertainment,” said Arturo Guillen, Rentrak VP, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “It rests on some of the keys of success of sagas such as ‘Torrente,’ which find humor in discomfiting aspects of our own culture.”

Toplining two femme stars with strong marquee value – TV icon Carmen Machi, whose skeins “7 Vidas” and “Aida” ran for 12 years in Spain, and Clara Lago (“I Want You,” “The Hidden Face”), “Affair” marks another hit for Telecinco Cinema, which co-produced “The Impossible,” “The Orphanage,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Tad, the Lost Explorer.” Telecinco teamed with LazonaFilms and Kowalkski Films to produce “Affair.”

Telecinco Cinema’s parent company, broadcast group Mediaset Espana, was able to put its huge marketing muscle behind the release of “Affair.”

“Though not pretentious. ‘Spanish Affair’ is a film where the romance and the humor both work. As a product, it’s very well-rounded,” said Ghislain Barrois, Telecinco Cinema CEO. “It was also helped by the colossal campaign by Mediaset Espana across its eight TV channels, starting with New Year’s Eve commercials, and including promos in the recent Spain-Italy soccer match and extensive news coverage.”

Also, “ ‘Spanish comedy appears to be enjoying a Golden Age, at the moment,” said Pau Brunet, at boxoffice.es, citing “Family United” and above all “Three Many Weddings,” which grossed $8.5 million in Spain. “There’s a tremendous craving for this kind of movie: People don’t want to see movies where they suffer.”

Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report.

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