MADRID — Sometimes it seems as if young Spaniards would rather bungie-jump onto cut glass than catch a local film. Illegally downloading TV shows like “Heroes” often wins out over watching Spanish films in cinemas or on TV. If local films don’t sport “star” names like Alejandro Amenabar or Santiago Segura, young Spaniards aren’t interested.
Spanish film’s largest quandary is how to lure young audiences. It’s a challenge for all territories outside the U.S., but in Spain, it now appears particularly acute.
Through June, Spanish films took just 7.9% of total B.O.
That’s not new. Spain traditionally backloads its big films into the fall, ducking Hollywood summer blockbusters.
But Spanish cinema’s poor performance is sparking national debate.
“Most Spaniards think the Spanish cinema is mediocre or uninteresting,” claimed a June study by the obscure Institute of Strategic Thought.
While the report seemingly asked weighted questions such as whether Spanish pics were mediocre compared with other national cinemas, the survey got extensive media play and emphasized that the oldest cinemagoers were far more likely to appreciate local fare.
An informal Variety poll of 16-30 year-olds found that cinemagoers fell into two camps: some lambasted local product as “seedy and cheap.” Others called Spanish films, for better or worse, “artistic,” “intellectual,” “issue-driven” or “boring.”
Few were avid Spanish filmgoers. As Diego Galan wrote in “El Pais,” Spaniards tend to criticize local film-making without seeing many local films.
Maybe it’s the movies.
“Most Spanish film projects target a minority of film buffs — people over 36,” says producer Enrique Posner at YaYa! Films.
This year has seen arty pics like Carlos Saura’s “Fados” and revealing docus like Benito Zambrano’s “Rif, The Forgotten Story,” but few films by name directors aimed at mainstream audiences, save Alex de la Iglesia’s “Oxford Murders.”
Illegal downloading is rife in Spain, losing an estimated 32% of legal business. It also affords young Spaniards the heady excitement of catching U.S. TV series just hours after they air Stateside. Young peoples’ conversations turn on who’s downloaded “Heroes” or “Jericho,” not movies.
Is there any way to counter the stigma?
“Young Spaniards need to feel the thrill of great films at school,” says Tesela producer Jose Antonio Felez.
Spanish films may simply lack sufficient development, and aren’t always targeted to specific audiences.
The country has plenty of film talent, but not everyone is making identifiably Spanish films.
“28 Weeks Later,” helmed by Spaniard Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, co-written by Spaniard Enrique Lopez Lavigne and co-financed by Spain’s Sogecine and Koan Films, grossed $2.7 million in 10 days in Spain. Few Spaniards recognize its Spanish input, however.