SAN SEBASTIAN – Argentina’s INCAA Film Institute is putting into place new mechanisms – and strengthening established ones- aimed at maintain the country’s robust rise in box office share – driven in 2014 by Damian Szifron’s “Wild Tales,” the most-watched Argentine film on home-turf since record books began in 1997.
A Cannes, Telluride and Toronto hit, Sony Pictures Classics U.S. pick-up and now frontrunner for San Sebastian’s Horizontes Latinos prize, “Wild Tales” punched 2.5 million in tix sales through Wednesday for Warner Bros., that has also acquired rights to the rest of Latin America, Spain and, unusually, France.
Figure bests Juan Jose Campanella’s two modern B.O. juggernauts: “The Secret in Their Eyes” (2.41 million) and “Foosball” (2.1 million
Thanks principally to “Wild Tales,” through Sept. 17, Argentine box office share was just up on 5% on 2013’s 15% share, INCAA president Lucrecia Cardoso said at San Sebastian. Total tix sold for Argentine pics hasrisen this year, despite a fall in overall cinema theater attendance, thanks to the World Cup.
In a bigger picture, the 7.4 million tix sold to Argentine movies in 2013 near doubled 2003’s 3,5 million admissions.
The highest-grossing film of 2014 of any nationality, over its first four weeks in Argentina, “Wild Tales” took a 53% market share. Such is a B.O. phenom.
Over 2014, however, a brace of Argentine movies, often distributed by Hollywood studios, have outperformed B.O, expectations, including Disney-distribbed “Baneros 4: Los Rompeolas” ($5.0 million), “The Mystery of Happiness” ($3.0 million) a career-best for director Daniel Burman, “Death in Buenos Aires” ($2.3 million), released by Distribution Co and Miguel Cohen’s “Betibu,” which grossed a solid $1.3 million for WB.
A slew of factors are at play. “The sector is maturing,” both directors and producers, Cardoso said argued. Three of the four Argentine films selected for Cannes were their directors’ third (“El Ardor,” “Wild Tales”) or fourth (“Refugiado”) or fifth (“Juaja”) feature.
“Wild Tales” is Szifron’s most ambitious, and confident film to date. “There’s a generation of directors which is raising its ante,” said Cardoso.
Producers are increasingly skilled at tapping international co-production coin to make a film at the budget it requires.
“Happiness” was co-produced by Walkiria Barbosa at Brazil’s Total Filmes. Lead-produced by Buenos Aires’ K & S Films, “Wild Tales” is co-produced by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo and Argentine broadcaster Telefe, as Telefonica Studios, the film/TV production arm of Telefe owner Telefonica hikes its film investment. The minority equity Telefe brings to the table is important; its promotion of “Wild Tales” in Argentina crucial.
Argentina has finally got over its Ricardo Darin/Guillermo Francella fixation, whereby only films with these stars punch big B.O. numbers. “Audiences now await with keen anticipation Argentina’s early -ear crime thriller,” Cardoso pointed out. “Mystery” (which does star Francella), “Death in Buenos Aires,” with Mexican Damian Bichir but sans Darin or Francella, and “Betibu” shared that noir harvest.
Can the Argentine state do anything at all to sustain its cinema’s box office traction?
Cardoso argues it already has, not only by re-installing subsidy aid mid-last decade but via a 2009 Audiovisual Services Communications Law obliging TV operators – free-to-air and pay – to invest in film, and a state initiative to finance indie TV programs destined for the slates of pubcasters and a state DTT network, opening up new TV outlets for content, now often made by formerly pure-play film producers.
“Many film producers are now producing for TV, which is positive, making their businesses sustainable or more sustainable, and means contents are not conditioned by advertising markets,” Cardoso said, adding that film/TV content makers are now not limited to Buenos Aires.
Now INCAA is raising the ante. It is backing the federal production of half-hour TV series across Argentina, Cardoso said in San Sebastian.
INCAA will also put up 8 million pesos – $1 million by official exchange rates – for a 13-part one-hour TV series that has matched that $1 million in international co-production coin.
As broadcasters over Latin America push into premium TV series – think Colombia’s Caracol TV – move is to compensate the high-costs of high-end TV fiction series – as oppose to telenovela – production in Argentina.
INCAA is offering about $1.5 million for other national TV series and aims to broaden international TV co-production treaties to take in TV, allowing Argentine TV content to qualify for other-country quotas, Cardoso added.