Web, low costs, lead to profits

World Report: Spain 2012

This July, thesp-turned-helmer Paco Leon’s mockumentary “Carmina o revienta” yielded Spanish cinema’s first multiplatform hit, suggesting a new distribution model for local pics.

In a depressed market, the guerrilla-style film cost e200,000 ($250,000), including promotion; it proved a modestly profitable investment.

Docu stars Leon’s real-life mother, first-timer Carmina Barrios, as an indomitable 58-year-old Seville matriach fending for her family, including her unemployed single-mom daughter (Leon’s sister Maria Leon, “The Sleeping Voice”) by pulling a canny insurance scam, compensating the theft of 80 hams from the family eatery.

After key awards at April’s Malaga Spanish Film Festival, the first option was a traditional release, via an 80-screen bow with a $250,000-$375,000 P&A investment. But Spain’s ever-softer theatrical market dissuaded producers.

A multiplatform film opening offered more business opportunities, though it barred “Carmina” from accessing public subsidies for skipping the traditional four-month theatrical window exclusivity for Spanish pics.

“In current times, better to earn some money risking little,” says Jaleo Films CEO Alvaro Alonso, a “Carmina” producer.

If conservative in investment, producers were bold in essaying alternative distribution. La Luna de Tantan bowed the pic July 5 on 20 screens, many in small Spanish cities. Indie portal Filmin negotiated VOD rights with a dozen VOD services, including seven Internet sites such as iTunes, Google Play, PSN and Mitele. Filmin parent company Cameo managed DVD sales. Paco Leon, a star on Spanish primetime TV, worked his 630,000 Twitter followers.

“Carmina’s” simultaneous launch “helped to cash in on our promotional efforts better,” Alonso says. Through Aug. 31 the pic punched 48,000 VOD buys at $2.44, a minimum price, during the first two weeks. It also grossed $121,981 at the B.O., but main returns came from DVD, with a standout 68,000 units sold at $7.50, half the going rate.

“The challenge was to show it on the Internet in a comfortable and affordable way to many people who don’t use it to consume movies legally,” says Filmin CEO Juan Carlos Tous.

A pay TV sale to Canal Plus at between $37,500 and $62,000 rounded out “Carmina’s” revenues, allowing investors to go into the black.

“Carmina” also established Leon as a promising comedy director.

In a country known as Europe’s piracy haven, immediate accessibility and low-pricing minimized unauthorized downloads, Tous says.

On top of it all, “Carmina” is an event movie that allowed Spain’s legal online portals to win visibility in a slow-growth market.

After initial optimism, Spain’s industry fears that its anti-piracy law, up-and-running from March, may become a paper tiger lacking public resources to effectively enforce the new regs.

“An attractive, legal digital offer is essential in fighting piracy,” says Jose Manuel Tourne, general manager at Spain’s FAP Federation for the protection of intellectual property.

“My mother has done more to battle piracy than the law,” Paco Leon tweeted after “Carmina’s” release.

As budgets and film subsids shrink in Spain, “Carmina” proved the Internet is the natural market for small movies and also a cost-effective promotion tool.

“The Internet grants guerrilla-production films a bigger promotional impact,” Alonso says.

“The model can be repeated for low-budget films, often comedies targeting young audiences,” adds Manuel Cristobal at Perro Verde Films, which is mulling a 2013 multiplatform release of Paco Roca’s $625,000 “Seinfeld”-esque tooner “Memorias de un hombre en pijama.”

Other multiplatform bows will follow soon in Spain. “Carmina” has just opened a door.

World Report: Spain 2012
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