‘Spanish Affair’ Is No One-Night Stand at Box Office

Rare local-language hit in Spain draws on TV marketing and feel-good vibe

Spain, still reeling from the 2008 global economic crisis, sky-high unemployment rates for young people and Eurozone financial woes, finally has something to laugh about: Romantic comedy “Spanish Affair” (Ocho apellidos vascos) is taking the country by storm, and its success on the bigscreen owes much to the smallscreen.

Distributed by Universal Pictures Intl., the film has cumed more than $21 million since its March 14 bow (when it debuted to $3.9 million). But the pic has defied gravity at the box office, soaring 56% in its second weekend to $6.1 million, and rising 24% over its March 28-30 frame to $7.4 million — a third-frame feat that even blockbusters “Welcome to the Sticks” and “The Intouchables” couldn’t match in their home territory of France, or anywhere in Europe.

Hollywood media congloms such as Comcast, Disney and Viacom, regularly use their broadcast and cable assets to promote fare from the movie units, and now broadcast groups around the world have wised up to the practice.

Co-produced by Telecinco Cinema, the film production arm of TV group Mediaset Espana, “Spanish Affair” has benefited from advertising and promotion across the broadcast group’s eight TV channels, including the conglom’s news outlets, which have run frequent reports of the film’s success, as well as features tied to the laffer.

Helmed by vet Emilio Martinez Lazaro, and written by Diego San Jose and Borja Cobeaga (“Friend Zone”), “Affair” follows Rafa (Dani Rovira), a Seville boy who falls for Amaia (Clara Lago), a Basque. To win her, he travels to her chauvinistic village, pretending to be Basque. “It’s a fish-out-of-water movie, but the backbone is a romantic comedy,” says Telecinco Cinema CEO Ghislain Barrois.

“Affair” is the first domestic, Spanish-language hit since 2007’s “The Orphanage,” which grossed $37.7 million on its home turf.

Other countries are succeeding with the cross-promotional gambit as well. Media congloms such as Mexico’s Televisa, Brazil’s Globo and Italy’s Mediaset/Medusa have joined the parade. In Italy, the propulsive power of TV on box office grosses is clearly evidenced by recent hit laffer “Sole a catinelle,” produced by Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset/Medusa and toplining TV comic Checco Zalone, which pulled in more than $70 million in 2013, boosted both by Zalone’s TV popularity and by a promotional barrage on Berlusconi’s TV, print and other media outlets. Box office for the pic, which riffs on the country’s deep recession, is second only to “Avatar” in Italy.

But that doesn’t wholly explain the B.O. triumph of “Affair.” “To launch a film, you need great promotion, but for that promotion to work beyond the launch, you need a great film,” Barrois says. “The word-of-mouth is absurdly positive; there’s tremendous repeat business.”

Indeed, the movie is still selling out shows in Madrid. “In the last 17 years, I have never seen any No. 1 film — Spanish or foreign — perform like this in Spain,” says Rentrak’s Arturo Guillen.

Another reason for the pic’s success may be affordability. As Spain spends another year mired in fiscal crises, “Spanish Affair” offers auds not only a feel-good comedy, but one at bargain rates.

Per Rentrak’s Guillen, thanks to exhibitors’ price drops and the lack of big early-2014 3D titles, the cost of tickets has fallen 12% from €6.94 ($9.60) in 2013 to €6.10 ($8.40) in first-quarter 2014.

“When ticket prices go down, young people (who are prone to solitary bingeing on TV series on their mobile devices and tablets) may come back to theaters to share entertainment with friends,” says Pau Brunet at Boxoffice.es.

“Spanish Affair” may be the first movie to hint at the huge benefits of cheaper entertainment.

Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.


Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rita And Tom Hanks Coronavirus

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Return to U.S. After Coronavirus Diagnosis in Australia

    Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are back home in the U.S. after they revealed they had contracted coronavirus and were quarantined in Australia. Hanks gave an update on Twitter Saturday morning, thanking everyone who had helped them in Australia and assuring people that they are still isolating themselves in the U.S. “Hey, folks…We’re home now [...]

  • Film Comment Magazine Goes on Hiatus

    Film Comment Magazine to Go on Hiatus as Film at Lincoln Center Lays Off Half of Staff

    Many companies are being financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Film at Lincoln Center is the latest organization to have to lay off employees and pause some of their operations. On Friday, executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing that the center had to furlough or lay off about half of its [...]

  • "Birds of Prey" egg sandwich

    'Birds of Prey' Actor Bruno Oliver Recreates Harley Quinn's Famous Sandwich

    When actor Bruno Oliver booked the role of short order cook Sal in “Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” he had no idea how significant Sal and his breakfast sandwich were to the story. “You couldn’t tell from the audition necessarily and as actors, we always worry about our scenes [...]

  • Minyan

    'Minyan': Film Review

    Best known for the unexpectedly soul-shattering San Francisco suicide doc “The Bridge,” indie filmmaker Eric Steel came out and came of age in 1980s New York at a moment just before AIDS devastated the city’s gay community. Such timing must have been surreal, to assume something so liberating about one’s own identity, only to watch [...]

  • Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches

    Film New Roundup: Animated Movie 'The Queen's Corgi' Fetches North American Distribution

    In today’s film news roundup, “The Queen’s Corgi” finds a home, the Overlook Film Festival is postponed and the California Film Commission adjusts its tax credit rules due to the coronavirus. ACQUISITION Freestyle Digital Media has acquired North American rights to the animated family comedy feature “The Queen’s Corgi,” and plans to make it available on DVD and to [...]

  • APA Logo

    APA Sets Salary Cuts and Furloughs in Wake of Covid-19 Pandemic

    Following in the steps of several agencies dealing with the coronavirus, APA has informed all offices of upcoming salary cuts along with possible suspensions and furloughs for employees due to the pandemic’s economic effect on the industry. APA board of directors will make the largest financial sacrifice. The move has been made to avoid layoffs [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content