×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Big-Budget Gambles Pay Off for Telecinco Cinema

Few movie companies in Europe have done more over the past decade to boost the high end of their national movie industries than Telecinco Cinema, the film production arm of Mediaset Espana, Spain’s biggest broadcast network group, which turns 15 this year.

Its top 10 movies, all co-produced with Spanish producers, have grossed nearly $600 million worldwide. They include Spain’s No. 1 B.O. title in 2012, Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” ($54.5 million), and 2014’s chart-topper, “Spanish Affair” ($77.5 million), which grossed four times its nearest Hollywood rival, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” ($17.5 million) and helped Spanish films to a 24% domestic market share, their biggest since 1977.

Telecinco Cinema’s biggest hits point to the capacity of film companies outside the U.S. to make movies that can impact the international box office: “The Impossible” grossed $180 million worldwide, Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” snagged $38 million (and three Academy Awards) in the U.S.

How and why Telecinco Cinema has emerged as a leader, however, is another matter.

“We don’t produce (films) out of vocation or as a business,” says Paolo Vasile, Mediaset Espana CEO. But it does out of necessity: Since, 1999, ME has been obliged by law to invest part of its annual revenues, currently 3%, in national film production.

Crucially, Telecinco Cinema has co-produced its movies with Spain’s indie sector, rather than simply pre-buying domestic free-to-air TV rights.

“We are producers, not just financiers,” Telecinco Cinema director general Alvaro Augustin says, adding that Telecinco Cinema wants to have input on the films it invests in. Co-producing with indie Spanish producers, Telecinco Cinema takes part of a film’s domestic B.O. in Spain and international sales. That has encouraged Telecinco to back its films’ theatrical bows to the hilt.

In 2006, having cut its teeth co-producing a string of more modestly budgeted comedies, Telecinco Cinema confronted its first big production, in Spanish terms at least: “Alatriste,” a 17th century historical epic based on a Spanish bestseller, starring Viggo Mortensen as a swashbuckling Spanish army captain.
“It was clearly an event film on its own merits,” says Ghislain Barrois, Telecinco Cinema CEO.

To promote its theatrical release in Spain, Telecinco Cinema parent Mediaset Espana enrolled in what Vasile calls “circular TV.” Broken in by “Big Brother,” which it aired since 2000, this sees marketing permeate a whole schedule: Specials, inhouse commercials, newscasts, talk shows, interstitials, etc. Alatriste’s broad-brimmed hat festooned a logo of Telecinco, the company’s main channel.

“The promotion we threw behind ‘Alatriste’ was colossal, emblematic, a case model,” says Barrois. It also helped power “Alatriste” to $21.2 million, then making it the fifth highest-grossing Spanish film ever.
With “Alatriste,” an industry model was born: Invest in films as co-production partners; have your parent network market the hell out of the biggest potential titles. Used by likeminded Spanish rival Atresmedia Cine, and now adopted with variations — in Argentina, for instance — the model is now powering up local industries in much of the world.

Marketing is hardly Telecinco Cinema’s whole story, however. “If a film is liked, it can take more or less time,” says Vasile, “but in the end it will triumph.”

Telecinco Cinema hallmark hits are often produced by young independent Spanish producers: 40something, cosmopolitan, artistically ambitious — think Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora,” or “Regression” from Mod Producciones. As Augustin observes, many, including himself, Barrois, Mod’s Fernando Bovaira and Apache’s Enrique Lopez-Lavigne, have cut their career teeth working at Spanish paybox Canal Plus.

“There is a generation of producers that has no boundaries, no prejudices, and has allowed a new generation of directors to break through,” Barrois says.

Telecinco Cinema has been highly competitive. The combined budget of Telecinco Cinema’s 10 biggest hits, which made about $590 million worldwide in theatrical box office alone, is roughly $168 million, Barrois says.

But it is not a popcorn player: Its films have won three Oscars, three Baftas and 62 Goyas, Spain’s equivalent of the Oscars. Courted by Hollywood and Spanish exhibition chains alike, Telecinco Cinema’s tony fare appeals to a broader sophisticated demography — think “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Agora” and Bayona’s mother-son trilogy of “The Orphanage,” “The Impossible” and now “A Monster Calls” — that Hollywood no longer so much serves.

What Spain now needs is for other communications groups or state-backed broadcasters to back Spanish cinema with the punch that Telecinco Cinema has done, making a virtue out of necessity.

More Film

  • Olmo Teodoro Cuaron, Alfonso Cuaron and

    Alfonso Cuarón Tells Why His Scoreless 'Roma' Prompted an 'Inspired' Companion Album

    Back around the ‘90s, “music inspired by the film” albums got a bad name, as buyers tired of collections full of random recordings that clearly were inspired by nothing but the desire to use movie branding to launch a hit song. But Alfonso Cuarón, the director of “Roma,” is determined to find some artistic validity [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival 2019 Award Winners

    Berlin Film Festival 2019: Nadav Lapid's 'Synonyms' Wins Golden Bear

    Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s “Synonyms,” about a young Israeli man in Paris who has turned his back on his native country, won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale on Saturday. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to François Ozon’s French drama “By the Grace of God,” a fact-based account of the Catholic Church [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel,' 'Lego Movie 2' to Lead President's Day Weekend

    “Alita: Battle Angel” is holding a slim lead ahead of “Lego Movie 2’s” second frame with an estimated four-day take of $29.1 million from 3,790 North American locations. “Lego Movie 2: The Second Part,” meanwhile, is heading for about $25 million for a domestic tally of around $66 million. The two films lead the pack [...]

  • Marianne Rendon, Matt Smith, Ondi Timoner

    Robert Mapplethorpe Biopic Team Talks 'Fast and Furious' Filming

    Thursday night’s New York premiere of the Matt Smith-led biopic “Mapplethorpe” took place at Cinépolis Chelsea, just steps from the Chelsea Hotel where the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe once lived — but director Ondi Timoner had no sense of that legacy when she first encountered him in a very different context. “When I was ten [...]

  • Bruno GanzSwiss Film Award in Geneva,

    Bruno Ganz, Star of 'Downfall' and 'Wings of Desire,' Dies at 77

    Bruno Ganz, the Swiss actor best known for dramatizing Adolf Hitler’s final days in 2004’s “Downfall,” has died. He was 77. Ganz died at his home in Zurich on Friday, his representatives told media outlets. The cause of death was reportedly colon cancer. In addition to delivering one of the definitive cinematic portrayals of Hitler, [...]

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content