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MADRID – In a milestone result for more fulsomely-budgeted movies made out of Spain, Spanish films punched a 2014 25.5% domestic market share through Dec. 7, their best home-turf result since 1977.
That slice of Spain’s total box office cake may slim a notch by the end of the year, maybe to 24%, said Arturo Guillen, VP, Rentrak, EMEA. But it will remain a 37-year-old modern record.

Meanwhile, Hollywood youth-orientated titles almost entirely underperformed, ravaged by rampant piracy and the parlous state of Spain’s crisis-hit youth, often without the money to go to cinema theaters.
For Tinseltown, there is a silver lining, however: As big Hollywood titles under-index in Spain, nearly all the major studios have moved into local pic distribution, even co-production. Hollywood majors distributed all Spain’s seven highest-grossers of 2014.

The large question for them and Spain’s industry now is whether Spain can get anywhere near these modern highs next year or maintain them in the long-term. For once, Spanish industry members are relatively sanguine about this future.

Spanish films grossed €123 million ($153.75 million) through Dec. 7, an all-time record. Put that down to one extraordinary breakout, Emilio Martinez Lazaro’s “Spanish Affair.” The comedic tale of a challenged love affair between an died-in-the-wool Andalusian lad and a feisty Basque lass, who has an equally stick-in-the-mud Basque father, “Affair” grossed €56.2 million ($70.25 million), becoming the highest-grossing Spanish film ever in Spain.

Such box office phenoms can’t be relied upon every year. Bigger picture factors suggest, however, that Spain may not slip back to last decade’s 13%-16% share norm.

“Spain’s broadcasters are bringing their know-how to local production,” said Guillen. Mediaset Espana and Atresmedia, with a combined 58.1% audience share, are also promoting the hell out of the films they co-produce across their bouquets of – combined – 10 free-to-air channels with a muscle that not even Hollywood studios can match.

Eight of Spain’s 2014 Top Ten local titles have been boight or co-produced by either Mediaset Espana or Atresmedia. Spanish films total box office gross in 2014 is not much better than 2012. But total takings have plunged.

“While Spanish films are functioning better than before, Hollywood titles are underperforming compared to previous years,” Guillen said.

With Spain’s under-25s still suffering the brunt of Spain’s post-recession unemployment, Spanish audiences skew older – as much of southern Europe – than those in the U.S. or Latin America.

Two adult-targeting titles – “Marshland” and “Wild Tales” – over-indexed in Spain. Hit by rampant piracy, encouraged by unemployment and low youth wages, and anyway more prevalent among youth auds, Spain’s most commercial titles, led by “Torrente,” arguably underperformed, as could also be said of Hollywood’s biggest teen-targeting titles of the year. Unable to persuade people to see such films in cinemas, as Paul Schrader remarked in a masterclass at Mar delPlata, Hollywood has largely given up on making “serious” adult-targeting movies which could over-perform with Spain’s older-aud demos. When it does, as with Martin Scorsese’s “Wolf of Wall Street,” a UPI release, it can score the third-highest box office ($16.5 million) of any U.S. film in Spain.

Beyond that, “Spanish producers are simply making films that are far more entertaining, romantic comedies such as ‘Spanish Affair,’ or action movies, like ‘El Niño,’” Guillen argued.

Driven by Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible,” which grossed €42.4 million ($54.5 million) in Spain, Spanish films already punched €119.9 million ($149.9 million) and a 19.5% share in 2012, when box office was a total €614.2 ($767.75 million), some 20% up on 2014.

For Guillen, “2014 isn’t pure chance or a total exception. Going forward, Spanish films could hit shares near to 20%. For Spanish films, 18% was once thought an outstanding achievement. It could now become far more normal.”

Multiple challenges remain, however. One is uncertainty over when or if Spain’s government will pay subsidies in full. Another, questions about Spain’s new tax break systems. Both could limit the number of higher-end movies going into production in Spain.

TV finance can only cover a limited number of titles. An increasing number of directors are now making films outside Spain.

For Spain’s highest-rollers, 2014 does, however, mark a large contrast with Spain’s non-to-distant past. Sliding from 1977’s 29.2%, made in an era when some Spaniards still looked to movie theaters not TV for entertainment, Spanish films market share plummeted to 7.1% in 1994.

The introduction of a new subsidy system, prizing box office performance, and, above all, the emergence of a new generation of directors (think Santiago Segura, Alejandro Amenabar) drove a partial recovery by the turn of the century.

1.“Spanish Affair,” UPI, Mediaset España, €56.2 million ($70.25 million)
2. “El Niño,” Hispano FoxFilm, Mediaset España, €16.3 million ($20.4 million)
3.”Torrente, Mission: Eurovegas,” Sony Pictures Releasing, Atresmedia, €10.75 million ($13.5 million)
4. “Marshland,” Warner Bros. Pictures, Atresmedia, €6.0 million ($7.5 million)
5. “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” HispanoFox Film, Atresmedia, €4.5 million ($5.6 million) *
6. “Wild Tales,” Warner Bros. Pictures, €4.1 million ($5.1 million)
7. “Mortadelo & Filemon, Mission: Implausible,” Warner Bros. Pictures, €3.0 million ($3.75 million)*
8.”Millionaire Dog,” DeAPlaneta, Atresmedia, €3.0 million ($3.75 million)
9. “Sorry If I Call You Love,” Savor, Mediaset España, €2.1 million ($2.6 million)
10. “Carmina and Amen,” A Contracorriente Films, Mediaset España €2.0 million ($2.5 million)

Source: Rentrak
Box office thru’ Dec. 11, 2014 * And still counting

2001: 17.9%, €110.2 million ($137.75 million); €616.4 million ($770.5 million)
2002: 13.6%, €85.1 million ($106.4 million), €625.9 million ($782.4 million)
2003: 15.8%, €101.0 million ($126.25 million), €640.0 million ($800 million)
2004: 13.4%, €92.5 million ($115.7 million), €691.6 million ($864.5 million)
2005: 16.7% €106,2 million ($132.75 million), €634.9 million ($793.6 million)
2006: 15.5% €98.4 million ($123 million), €636.2 million ($795.25 million)
2007: 13.5% €86.7 million (108.4), €643.7 million ($804.6 million)
2008: 13.2% €81.6 million ($102 million), €619.3 million ($774.1 million)
2009: 15.55% €104.4 million ($130.5 million), €671.0 million ($838.75 million)
2010: 12.1% €80.2 million ($100.25 million), €662.3 million ($827.9 million)
2011: 15.6% €99.1 million ($123.9 million), €635.8 million ($794.75 million)
2012: 19.5% €119.9 million ($149.9) €614.2 million ($767.75)
2013: 13.9% €70.2 million (87.75), €506.3 million ($632.9 million)
2014: 25.5% €123 million ($153.75 million), €482.3 million ($602.9 million) *

Source: Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, Variety Dollar equivalent in constant dollar terms
* Thru Dec. 7