Spain’s Golem Takes ‘Winter Sleep,’ ‘White God’ ‘Force Majeure’

Territory’s arthouse market still buys, but highly selectively

White God FEHÉR ISTEN Cannes 2014

CANNES – Confirming for another year at Cannes that there is life left in Spain’s arthouse market, though for a highly select number of titles, Golem, Spain’s premier art pic distributor-exhibitor, has acquired a quintet of major prizewinners.

Three buys are unannounced: Cannes’ Memento Films Intl.-sold Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep,” “White God,” from The Match Factory, which topped Un Certain Regard, and the Co-Production Office-sold “Force Majeure,” which snagged Un Certain Regard’s Jury Prize.

As previously reported, Golem has also acquired two other Cannes competition entries, both lacerating social critiques: Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu,” sold by Le Pacte, which won Cannes’ Ecumenical Jury Prize, and turns on the impact of jihadist rule in the city, and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan,” sold by Pyramide Intl., a record of corruption and the lack of justice in contempo Russia.

Of pre-sales, Golem has also acquired from Elle Driver Benoit Jacquot’s love triangle drama “3 Hearts,” with a top-flight cast of Benoit Poelvoorde, Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve, as well as Films Distribution’s upcoming Francois Ozon title “The New Girlfriend,” starring Romain Duris and Raphael Personnaz.

In a year when both the Cannes competition and Un Certain Regard juries, headed by Jane Campion and Pablo Trapero respectively, chose films which had already sparked both critical buzz and early sales at Cannes, “Leviathan” was acquired at Berlin, but the other four titles at Cannes after screenings but before prizes, said Golem co-topper Josetxo Moreno.

That said, the top Cannes plaudits provide invaluable marketing hooks for the acquisitions. As arthouse audiences become ever more selective in the titles they catch at cinema theaters, a Cannes prize has become more, not less, important for distributors.

With TV buys, whether pay or free-to-air, few-and-far between on arthouse titles in Spain, and DVD/VOD decimated by piracy, Golem’s buys were predicated on the movies’ theatrical potential, Moreno said. Golem’s ownership of five Golem cinema theaters, spread between Madrid and the northern cities of Pamplona and Bilbao at least allows it to take a certain risk on titles such as ‘Winter Sleep,’ rationalizing releases and enjoying fixed release dates, he added.

Crucial too for acquisitions was sales agents’ controlling asking prices for Spain. Romantic comedy “Spanish Affair” has galvanized box office numbers for early 2014 in Spain, up 12% in total box office grosses through April 20. A rich line in local productions look set to hit local theaters this year: Scumbag cop saga “Torrente 5,” thriller “Marshland,” horror franchise finale [REC] 4,” action thriller “El Nino,” and 3D toon “Mortadelo & Filemon: Mission Implausible.”

But most titles, whether studios’ wannabe blockbusters or arthouse gems, still continue, however, to under-index in Spain, which faces a long-haul out of recession.