Spanish telco marches into pix, TV

TMIC-owned Lolafilms U.K. announces projects

CANNES — Officially launching here Friday, Lolafilms U.K. could be the most glamorous tip of a huge iceberg — one that involves the biggest incursion ever into film and TV by a telco in Europe or Latin America.

Barely two weeks after launch, Telefonica Media Intl. y de Contenidos (TMIC) now owns Spain’s most internationally ambitious film production project in the last few decades, Lolafilms U.K.

TMIC is the international media subsid of Spanish telco giant Telefonica. When created in early May, TMIC assumed parent company Telefonica’s 33% stake in Lolafilms, plus its mooted U.K. subsid Lolafilms U.K.

Lolafilms CEO Andres Vicente Gomez intimated key casting on some top projects Friday. Maria Gracia Cucinotta (“Il Postino”) and Spanish actor Santiago Segura (“Torrente”) may partner as leads on Franc Roddam’s “The Girl From Rio”; meanwhile, Jeremy Northam (“The Winslow Boy”) is a candidate to star as the indefatigable detective Nayland Smith in Alex de la Iglesia’s “Fu Manchu.”

Lolafilms U.K. recently announced a slew of English-lingo projects, many from the cream of Spanish auteurs; the banner looks set to become a conduit for two to three pics a year in the $15 million budget range.

Other new projects unveiled on the Croisette include Fernando Trueba’s “The Maid of Buttermere,” a $16 million adaptation of the Melvyn Bragg novel, co-produced with Alan Latham’s U.K. shingle FDC/Downtown, that’s set to roll in the Lake District this fall.

Helmer Manuel Gomez Pereira is co-writing a bigger-budget, English-lingo comedy with Joaquin Oristrell, which could go through Lolafilms U.K. Production details have yet to be decided, Gomez Pereira said.

Storming onto Latin scene

But far beyond these activities, key Lola shareholder TMIC is talking about becoming one of the world’s top producer-distributors of Spanish-lingo content, by the end of the year.

Under Miami-based prexy Jose Antonio Rios, TMIC will rapidly plow into content and company acquisitions and alliances. TMIC certainly has pockets deep enough to pull it off; its parent company enjoyed revenues of $19 billion last year.

TMIC also has a respected industry veteran in Rios, a Venezuelan who was formerly CEO of the Hughes/Cisneros-backed Latin American satcaster Galaxy Latin America.

“TMIC’s main objective is to invest in or consolidate assets in TV distribution, both free TV, cable, direct-to-home and Internet, as well as generating content for the Spanish-speaking world,” Rios told Daily Variety.