For Spain’s film industry, the spring outlook for 2014 represents a frustrating paradox.
On the one hand, theatrical grosses and ticket sales through April 20 were up 12% and 29%, respectively, over 2013, according to Rentrak. The romantic comedy “Spanish Affair” (pictured) helped, having grossed $60.8 million as of April 29, making it the second biggest hit ever in Spain after “Avatar” ($103 million). And the local market share from Spanish productions was the highest in memory at 27.7% through April 20.
Yet Spain’s double-dip recession from 2009-12 has withered its industry. The budget of the industry’s main subsidy, Spain’s Film Protection Fund, fell 56% from $106 million in 2011 to $46.5 million this year. To add insult to injury, TV investment in local films roughly halved as TV advertising plunged 53% from 2007 to 2013’s $2.3 billion.
Any assessment of the recent uptick in admissions must also be tempered by the fact that Spain’s box office showed signs of bottoming out last year, having plunged 46% from 2004, decimated by a perfect storm of piracy, economic crisis and a 13% sales tax hike on tickets in 2012.
That said, Spain’s capacity to make movies with worldwide box office potential is in little doubt. Just how much equity it can bring to the table is another question.
Some business models survive. Local broadcasters Mediaset Espana and Atresmedia are flexing marketing muscle on Spanish films they co-produce that not even Hollywood studios can match, including news coverage, promotion and commercials across four to six channels. “We have a colossal promotional platform and top management that is very willing to use it,” says Ghislain Barrois, CEO of Telecinco Cine, Mediaset’s film production arm.
A few additional financing sources are opening up, such as Telefonica Studios, which has taken minority equity in four recent Spanish productions.
“Our generation of filmmakers needs to cross borders,” says Telefonica Studios’ director Axel Kuschevatzky. “The idea of having movies made between two or three countries in Latin America and Spain is something we should explore in the near future.”
Adds Simon de Santiago of Mod Producciones: “Spanish films’ production models are increasingly based on their international attraction, which often means shooting in English, looking for international partners and pre-sales.”
Also, some regional funding is holding up. Vaca Films producer Borja Pena cites Galicia, in Spain’s northwest, where government funding was increased considerably in the present year after being slashed in 2013.
In the meantime, three Spanish directors went into production on star-studded co-productions: Alejandro Amenabar’s “Regression,” starring Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson; Fernando Leon’s “A Perfect Day,” with Benicio Del Toro, Tim Robbins and Olga Kurylenko; and Miguel Angel Vivas’ “Welcome to Harmony,” with Matthew Fox and Jeffrey Donovan.
And with more and more Spaniards staying in Los Angeles after having studied there, traditional Spanish financing models need to be rethought, says L.A.-based producer Jana Diaz Juhl.
“Everyone is thinking more globally,” she says. “In the film industry, ‘globally’ goes through Los Angeles.”