Intensive care for colorful indie

Distribber's health may be better than his ailing shingle

MADRID — On May 16, Spanish pic distributor Francisco Hoyos, a party-hearty phenomenon, at last found temporary rest: Under general anesthetic, he was given a triple bypass at a Madrid hospital.

Spectacularly zipped from neck to belly, the patient is doing well, if not patiently.

Hoyos’ health may be better than that of his distrib shingle, Cine Co. — which underscores a larger issue: the fate of much specialist distribution in Europe.

While some see niche distrib Cine as having failed to adapt to a more mainstream environment, Hoyos blames local TV broadcasters for the company’s troubles.

“Spanish distributors once looked to TV sales for extra profit. Now TV sales are vital for survival,” he says.

These days, distributors need to huddle close to larger groups, not so much for finance as for their political clout with TV nets.

“I’m just one man with a ponytail,” Hoyos says.

A self-proclaimed “child of the ’60s,” Hoyos has certainly lived life to its fullest.

He began in Buenos Aires, producing Jean Genet plays, promoting rock concerts and raisingArgentinian dogos. (He even wrote for a dog magazine.) Back in Spain under democracy, he co-produced the first all-nude “Blue Satan” spectacle; created pic distributor Surf Films in 1984; and nursed “Delicatessen” to $1.7 million and “Cyrano de Bergerac” to $3.5 million.

He was appointed a chevalier des arts et des belles lettres by the French government and then co-produced raucous road movie “Airbag” — its $6.5 million box office take placing it among the top Spanish smashes.

Inimitable, impeccable and seemingly inextinguishable, Hoyos’ pizza-toned ties could attract a tropical snake at a hundred yards. Likewise, he boasts unquestioned marketing flare. To celebrate “Delicatessen’s” first year in Spanish cinemas, he brought a live pig to the fiesta. People ate ham and stroked the pig.

But Cine Co. has never had a big catalog, no corporate safety line, no cinemas. And times have changed.

For years, according to Hoyos, Cine Co. has been waiting for pubcaster RTVE to pay part of a multimillion-dollar pic package deal.

No television net bought “Fish People,” Hoyos’ long-hyped follow-up to “Airbag.” He finally jettisoned the project. And the Hoyos-bought “Gazon Maudit” remains unsold to free TV in Spain.

Hoyos thinks RTVE will finally come through, allowing him to refloat. But a larger question remains: whether even in Spain, the West’s bastion of libertinism, these are now times for men with more sober suits.

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