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Spain

Box office still in pain while piracy books gains

MADRID — Recent years have been dismal for Spanish indie distributors. Now, with recession knocking at the door, they’re searching desperately for a glimmer of hope.

“In times of crisis, cinema’s always a good shelter,” says Luis Ortiz, VP at boutique Tripictures.

Any positive effects have yet to be felt, however. Through Aug. 31, Spanish B.O. fell 8.6% to E384.5 million ($545 million), according to Spain’s ICAA film institute.

Boosted by the “Sex and the City” movie ($8.4 million) and “Asterix at the Olympic Games” ($8.3 million), Tripictures was Spain’s top indie distrib, with a cume for 2008 so far of $25.5 million. Distrib was followd by indies On Pictures ($14.5 million), DeAPlaneta ($13.7 million), Filmax ($13.5 million) and Aurum ($12.3 million).

Last spring saw an ambitious competitor join Spain’s indie block: Wide Pictures. Founded by former Manga Films prexy Luis de Val, Wide has already invested in 25 pics. “The only way to survive today is focusing on big titles that debut in the top five,” De Val asserts.

October saw the birth of Precision, a 3-D distrib that debuted with rock-concert docu “U2 3D.”

Meanwhile, DVD revenues dropped 21% to $138.6 million in the first half of 2008, per vid association UVE. And films are increasingly disappearing from Spanish commercial television.

Spanish indies are testing new windows. Filmax launched its film, TV and music online megastore YoDecido (yodecido.com) to exploit its nearly 4,000-title inventory.

Jaime Rosales’ “Bullet in the Head,” handled and produced by Wanda Vision, opened Oct. 3 simultaneously in Spanish cinemas and at movie portal Filmin (filmin.es).

But the biz’s main bane remains piracy. Some 240 million movie files were downloaded in Spain last year, per research company GfK. Downloads could reach 527 million in 2008 — a trend that’s damaging to the growth of legitimate online portals.

“While the government and telcos continue to prioritize broadband development over content protection, it’s senseless to invest in online movie stores,” argues Yolanda del Val, DeAPlaneta’s head of acquisitions and sales.

Despite the problems, most Spanish distributors will travel to AFM to buy, but very cautiously.

2008 B.O.

$545 million (through Aug. 31)

Top title

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” ($29 million)

Recent pickups

“Frozen River” (Sagrera TV)

“Genova” (Wanda Vision)

“Pandora’s Box” (Karma Films)

“Still Walking” (Golem)

“The Wrestler” (Wide Pictures)