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Spanish sales see upswing

Film biz have nearly tripled in last four years

MADRID — For the Spanish film industry, the international market has always been a final frontier. Now, however, overseas sales are finally lifting off, according to a pioneering study from Spain’s FAPAE producers association. Although TV sales have dropped considerably, film sales have nearly tripled in the last four years.

The report’s results sometimes raise eyebrows. One surprise: Latin America amounted to only 4% of total export revenues for Spanish producers and sales agents in 2004. Latin America normally accounts for some 10% of total sales on an average Spanish film, say Spanish sales agents. Even so, the stat certainly gives the lie to the assumption that because Spain and Latin America share the same language, they’ll share similar Hispanic film tastes.

Some stats are devastating. Total sales returns stood at E93.5 million ($112.8 million) for film and TV in 2004. In 2000, however, TV accounted for 48% of overall exports; in 2004, just 30%, a sign of the weakness of Spain’s international TV biz, which lacks large drivers such as miniseries.

French mini “Napoleon” alone notched $33.7 million in sales. Returns on film sales, by contrast, nearly tripled to $78.9 million from 2000 to 2004. That seems a huge sum when an average Spanish film brings in little more than $200,000 from foreign.

The FAPAE study doesn’t mention which specific films make up this amount. But explanations abound for the film sales hike. 2004 was a good year for big Spanish films, led by “The Sea Inside,” “The Machinist” and “Bad Education.”

“Average production values are climbing, which also aids exports. The better a film looks, the easier it is to sell it,” says Sogecine/Sogepaq’s director of production and international, Simon de Santiago. The U.S. is a growth territory for Spain, with sales up 14% in 2004, partly driven by accords with DVD and gay film-themed distribs. Deals might pull in as little as $20,000 a shot, but Spain sells 50-plus films a year to the U.S.

The FAPAE report probably nails it, however, when it claims that the fundamental reason for the film sales increase is the launch of new sales agents. In 1995, Spain boasted one established overseas sales house: Sogepaq Intl.

Now Filmax Intl., Lolafilms, Wanda, Latido, Pi Group, KWA, Lumina, El Dorado and El Retiro are also plying Spanish films, helped by Spanish institutions that underwrite the costs of attending markets. In other words, a Spanish film doesn’t command higher prices abroad. There are simply more films being sold. All of which suggests an optimistic conclusion: If Spanish films didn’t sell so well a few years back, it could be because nobody tried to sell many of them.

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