Once made up of almost pure-play Spanish film vendors, Spain’s sales sector is diversifying to survive.
One reason: the number of Spanish star-driven pics with high production values has plunged as average Spanish movie budgets dropped from $3.4 million in 2009 to $2.0 million in 2015.
Despite some exceptions, local films have followed the trend of foreign-language fare the world over and sell abroad at lower prices than 10 years ago. International buyers are becoming increasingly selective in foreign-language acquisitions and struggle ever more to open them theatrically.
“If distributors were already cautious, they are now still more,” says Vicente Canales at Film Factory Ent. “Buying a film, they need to see important theatrical elements in it to acquire it.”
International business is also polarizing. Per Canales, “There’s practically no middle ground: Either you make good sales on films with a theatrical opening or small sales for other release windows.”
Latido Films CEO Antonio Saura believes the international market is transforming. “Traditional windows such as theatrical and free-to-air TV still sustain the business, but the market reality is being altered by new players such as Netflix and Amazon, which are breaking the game rules,” he argues.
Both Film Factory and Latido are driving hard into Latin American movies, repositioning themselves as mainly Spanish-language movie sales agents.
Film Factory has handled some of Latin America’s biggest recent foreign-language pics: Damian Szifron’s box office breakout “Wild Tales” and Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan,” the 2015 Venice Silver Lion winner.
Latido launched in 2003 with a special focus on Latin America and Spain. Some of its sales standouts have been sourced from Latin America: Juan Jose Campanella’s Oscar winning Argentine-Spanish co-production “The Secret in Their Eyes” and Chilean Andres Wood’s Sundance winner “Violeta Went to Heaven.”
In recent years, Latido’s reaction to the market’s challenges has been to grow tentacles over Latin America, especially in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico. Bolivia and Peru are seen as on-the-rise territories.
Because it also acquires Eastern European movies, Latido’s Cannes lineup has only one 100% Spanish film. It handles two Argentina-Spain co-productions — Rodrigo Grande’s upscale thriller “At the End of the Tunnel,” and Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn’s dramedy “The Distinguished Citizen” — plus two Mexican titles: Julio Hernandez Cordon’s skateboarder romance “I Promise You Anarchy” and Celso Garcia’s debut “The Thin Yellow Line.”
“Latin American films have a very important A-class festival presence, show great talent and boast very original stories,” Canales says.
Latido’s other option is consolidation. Sales agent Marina Fuentes has overseen the transition of Madrid-based outfit 6 Sales’ titles to the catalog of Simon Crowe’s London-based SC Films Intl. heading into Cannes, where sci-fi thriller “Winter’s Dream” and toon pic “Ozzy” premiere. She will now work exclusively as head of international sales and acquisitions at India’s Cinestaan Film Co.
“Concentration is happening in exhibition and distribution,” Fuentes says. “It’s happening at the studio level too, so it has to happen in the indie arena. Fewer sales agents need to exist or work much more efficiently to have a healthy industry.”
Although Barcelona-based Filmax Intl. is offering high-profile Spanish features such as Jaume Balaguero’s supernatural thriller “Muse” and Dani Rovira-starrer dramedy “100 Meters” at Cannes, the company has also diversified into the sale of higher-end TV dramas. The noir series “I Know Who You Are,” a Filmax-Mediaset España co-production, was well received at April’s MipDrama Screenings.
“From the perspective of a company that comes from film business, I now see more dynamism in the TV market, which reminds me of how the film market was eight or 10 years ago,” says Ivan Diaz, Filmax Intl. head.
That’s one reason why Geraldine Gonard, former managing director at sales house Imagina Intl. Sales, is focusing primarily on scripted TV with the launch of her own company, Inside Content. (Though she also brings the feature “The Night My Mother Killed My Father” to Cannes.)
“Scripted TV is a hugely active sector,” Gonard says. “It’s a great moment to be in the business.”