Pedro Almodovar didn’t compete at Cannes until “All About My Mother” in 1999.

But after winning prizes for “Mother” and 2006’s “Volver,” while his “Broken Promises” played in competition in 2009, an Almodovar film seems a Cannes rite.

His latest entry is “The Skin I Live In,” a psychological thriller starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Marisa Paredes, which plays Thursday in Competition.

However, pic’s Cannes bow looked unlikely after Warner Bros. — Pedro and producer brother Agustin Almodovars’ longstanding Spanish distributor — confirmed a September bow in Spain. It sparked speculation that “Skin” would play Venice or San Sebastian or go straight into general distribution, like “Bad Education” and “Talk to Her.”

Unwilling to commit to fests until their films are finished, the Almodovars only decided they could make Cannes in April.

The film’s Riviera world preem, says producer Agustin Almodovar, is in part a mark of the deep bonds linking the brothers to Cannes.

Their El Deseo, created in 1985 to produce “The Law of Desire,” was in debt by early 1988 after bankrolling “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.” But that Cannes, when “Women” was not selected for the fest, the Almodovars signed a worldwide distribution deal with Orion and a U.S. distribution deal with Michael Barker and Tom Bernard at Orion Classics.

Taken over by Sony Pictures Classics, the partnership with Barker and Bernard helped forge a close working relationship on U.S. distribution that has survived to 2011.

The Orion deals cancelled El Deseo’s debt. The Barker/Bernard relationship also helped give Pedro Almodovar creative freedom right down to this day, says Agustin Almodovar.

However inventive in style and liberal in outlook, Pedro Almodovar brings his films in on budget.

The final credit sequence of “The Flower of My Secret,” for example, was meant to feature a freeze-frame of Paredes and her potential new lover while a digital log fire flamed romantically in the background. But the Almodovars decided the five-minute effect, which would have to be performed abroad, cost too much. So it was abandoned.

Running a tight financial operation, with faithful distributors locked in worldwide, the Almodovars don’t have to take each and every film to the open market for financing, boxing themselves into completion deadlines or suffering market pressures.

Cannes offers other attractions.

“We’ll be able to test the waters with a global, cosmopolitan and very varied public,” says Agustin Almodovar.

“There’s no global marketing campaign on ‘Skin.’ It’s a great opportunity to talk with our distributors as they design their marketing campaigns for each territory.”

Hits trump Spain’s pirates | Law forces rookie nets to pump coin into film | Almodovars rekindle Riviera relationship | Sales execs play up local pic strengths | Case studies | Battling the behemoth | Madrid’s mondo move | Talent on the verge | Choice on Croisette

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