Spanish comedies boost industry

Local revival spurs lively box office business

Spain’s battling film industry finally has something to laugh at: a local pic revival.

Three Spanish comedies — “Brain Drain,” “Road to Santiago” and “The Friend Zone” — have garnered lively B.O. or fest plaudits, plowing coin back to the Hollywood majors that backed them.

Spanish minimajor DeAPlaneta has inked international rights on the trio with the pics’ co-producer Antena 3 Films, and will launch a sales drive at Cannes.

“Brain Drain” topped Spanish B.O. charts in its first frame after a April 24 opening through Fox, cuming E2.8 million ($3.7 million) in its first 10 days.

Released by Warner Bros., “Road to Santiago,” directed by Roberto Santiago, has grossed $3.4 million from an April 8 bow.

A third laffer, Borja Cobeaga’s “The Friend Zone,” won the Critics’ Prize at April’s Malaga Spanish film fest; “Drain” took its audience award.

The hits follow the success of the Sony-distributed Spanish sex dramedy “Lies and Fat Girls,” produced by Gerardo Herrero and Francisco Ramos, which also came in numero uno at the Spanish B.O, punching $5.7 million to date after a March 27 opening. Latido reps “Girls” at Cannes.

Both “Drain,” which features some U.S. -style grossout humor, and “Friend Zone,” are geek chick-flicks in the Judd Apatow vein.

“They are feel-good movies that don’t pretend to be more than fun entertainment,” says Mercedes Gamero, CEO of Antena 3 Films

The comedy trio also underscores the crucial role now played by TV in Spain’s new film biz.

Antena 3 Films parent, broadcast network Antena 3 TV, has heavily marketed “Drain” and “Santiago,” to the point that soccer commentators take time from the game to sing “Drain’s” praises.

Santiago’s last pic, “Chef’s Special,” a gay chef laffer, sold nicely abroad for sales agent Imagina.

“Spanish cinema has had a bad brand image in Spain. That’s beginning to change,” Medina says.