MADRID — Two of Spain’s most powerful film companies, Spain’s Apaches Entertainment and Telecinco Cinema, the film arm of Mediaset Espana, won the 2013 Fapae-Rentrak Prize for Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor.

Plaudit was awarded Tuesday at Spain’s annual Madrid de Cine screenings for Spanish films, its biggest national film showcase, to the Spanish film with largest international impact.

Bowing at the Toronto Festival, and sold to 72 territories by Summit Ent., “The Impossible” grossed Euros 131 million ($175 million) worldwide, including $56.1 million in Spain, an all-time home-turf record for a Spanish film.

That gross naturally reflects the large creative talents involved, from Bayona to Watts, Oscar-nommed for her true-life inspired performance.

But the Fapae-Rentrak award also prizes a business model that Spain needs all the more as its domestic market suffers the full-force of crisis and piracy, as a Tuesday press conference offered by Spanish producers’ federation Fapae made clear before the award ceremony.

Accepting the award for Apaches, Belen Atienza — who produced “The Impossible” with Apaches’ Enrique Lopez Lavigne and Telecinco Cinema’s Ghislain Barrois and Alvaro Augustin — praised Telecinco Cinema for investing in development costs for “The Impossible,” crucial on a hugely ambitious film that faced huge technical challenges.
Promoting the hell out of “The Impossible across its seven TV channel bouquet, Mediaset Espana proved that if a Spanish company markets a film like a major, it can garner results like a Hollywood major as well.

Homing in on one key to “The Impossible,” Telecinco Cinema CEO Barrois cited the vehement words of French Revolution leader Georges Danton, as he rallied France’s young Republic: “To win, we need audacity, audacity, audacity.”

“That worked very well for France’s young Republic, if less so for Danton, but no plan’s perfect,” Barrois quipped.
Telecinco Cinema will now launch ambitious film projects, in English if the story needs it, Barrois added.

“The Impossible” “offers hope for the future of the Spanish cinema, and shows what broadcasters can do for cinema,” said Fapae prexy Pedro Perez.

For the Spanish film industry, international box office offers light at the end and in the middle of a tunnel.

Spanish films’ total 2012 box office outside Spain was Euros 150.5 million ($201.3 million): 19% down on 2011, when Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” grossed around $126 million, but nearly 40% up on 2010.

Even excluding box office for blockbuster “Fast & Furious 6,” a Spanish co-production, international grosses for “The Impossible,” “Tad the Lost Explorer” ($50 million) and “Mama” ($136 million, and counting) mean 2013 is already a bumper year for Spanish cinema abroad.

Underscoring the fast-growing importance of Latin America for Spanish movies, Mexico was Spain’s biggest foreign market last year, with Spanish films grossing a total $23.7 million there. Further major markets were Italy ($22.9 million), the U.S. ($21.9 million), France ($17.7 million) and Argentina ($15.4 million).

The downside for Spanish films continues to be their domestic market. Total takings for Spanish movies in Spain in 2012 came in at around $147 million, per Rentrak, way down on international theatrical.

Combined first-five-month box office for movies of any nationality in Spain was about 17% down on 2012, Jose Antonio Felez, prexy of Asociacion Estatal de Cine, a Spanish producers’ org, said at the Fapae press conference.

Through June 12, Spanish film shoots have plunged 26% to 43 vs. same period 2012. From 2010, the average budget of a Spanish film fell 40% to $2.4 million in 2012.

The main cause of the Spanish industry’s declining output remains alegal, unauthorized movie streaming and downloading in Spain, Felez sustained.

Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this report.