For Pedro Almodovar it was not a bad perf: “Volver” notched up a hometurf career best for the director with a $13 million gross. That was, for example, much better than “Borat,” which pulled in a measly $2.7 million.
A handful of other local pics also did decently.
Swashbuckler “Alatriste,” with Viggo Mortensen, topped Almodovar’s take with $22 million, while Emilio Martinez Lazaro’s “The 2 Sides of the Bed,” a 2005 holdover, grossed $10 million.
Still, only eight Spanish pics, including co-pros “Pan’s Labyrinth” ($9.4 million), “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” ($7.5 million) and period drama “The Borgias” ($8.6 million) were definable as hits.
Of Spanish producers, only broadcasters have the financial muscle and marketing clout to turn out films with high production values without facing large financial risk.
As a result of this and other drawbacks, the receipts of Spanish films at home is usually too small (a total of some $110 million to $150 million most years), and the local films’ market share too modest (13%-17%) to noticeably impact American movies.
If there is a link between Spanish and U.S. fare, recent stats suggest it’s not a win-win scenario.
Since 2002, every year that Spanish films’ total B.O. has risen (2003, 2005), B.O. for U.S. movies has fallen. And vice versa (2002, 2004, 2006).
On the other hand, Hollywood studios and local producers can both benefit if the majors distrib local films. This year, four of the six highest-grossing Spanish films were distributed by U.S. studios.
The bad news is that folks aren’t rushing to movie theaters the way they used to.
“There’s now an apparent limit to people’s interest in seeing movies in theaters,” said cinema booker Roberto Bayon.
On the increasingly rare occasions that Spaniards make it to a moviehouse, if they can’t get into the Spanish film they want to see, rather than spilling over into a neighboring theater, they may just choose to catch it free on a peer-to-peer Internet site. (Spanish piracy levels are the highest of Europe’s top five territories).
Some exhibs even blame the lack of enthusiasm for moviegoing on global warming. “With a summery fall, people prefer to take their children to parks or shopping malls rather than to cinemas,” Bayon said.
Still, a 5% hike in ticket prices helped push total B.O. to $754 million through Dec. 7, 3% up on 2005. Maintaining that uptick, it would come in at $850 million, the second best monetary result in history.
But total tix sold through Dec. 7 reached just 109 million, 2% below 2005.
The country’s challenge is to better last year’s 128 million tickets sold, currently the worst tally since Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War.