MADRID – Highlighting an ongoing sea-change in cinema-going over much of the world, a Spanish title “Spanish Affair 2” has grossed €24.5 million ($27.0 million) for Universal Pictures International Spain, passing “Minions” and “Jurassic World” to become the highest-grossing film in Spain this year.
Directed by Emilio Martinez Lazaro, “Spanish Affair 2” looks very likely to top out 2016 retaining that crown through Dec. 31: However colossal the bow of “Star Wars: the Force Awakens,” which opens in Spain Dec. 18, the new installment will be very hard put to equal the north of €30 million ($33.0 million) or so which “Spanish Affair 2” will have run up by year-end.
Produced by Lazona and tax vehicle Weather AIE for Telecinco Cinema. Bowing Nov. 20, “Spanish Affair” 2 is also now the fifth highest-grossing Spanish film in history, behind “Spanish Affair,” “The Impossible,” “The Others” and “The Orphanage.” Four out of these five highest-grossers are Telecinco Cinema titles.
After 2012 (“The Impossible”), 2014 (“Spanish Affair”), 2015 will also mark the third year out of four that a Spanish film tops Spanish box office charts.
Audiences in Spain appear to be looking for high spectacle or big family films from Hollywood or films that speak to their own reality from Spain.
That may not be coincidental. Box office in Spain is now dominated by “event films from Hollywood, but it’s a smaller pool of product than in the past, and a handful of Spanish movies which are appealing to Spanish audiences,” said Telecinco Cinema CEO Ghislain Barrois.
“This is a revolution in Spain, but it has happened in Germany, Italy and France.”
And for Hollywood Studios, local films are not icing on the cake but part of it. For three majors – Paramount Pictures Intl. (“Capture the Flag”), Warner Bros. Intl. Spain (“Perdiendo el Norte”) and now UPI – their biggest 2015 hits to date in Spain are Spanish movies, Barrois observed. For a long time, Spanish comedy “Now or Never” was Sony’s best performer of 2015, until it was bested by “Hotel Transylvania 2.”
Telecinco Cinema’s biggest 2016 play, Juan Antonio Bayona’s “A Monster Calls” also has a sporting chance of topping out charts in Spain next year.
“’Spanish Affair 2’ success has gone beyond a commercial dimension to become a social phenomenon that has reached the corners of Spain giving enormous entertainment and, above all, positioning cinema as one of the principal leisure alternatives,” said Jose Luis Hervias, CEO, Universal Pictures International Spain.
What has changed in Spain? A new generation of producers and directors – allying with some vets such as Martinez Lazaro – are making films with no shame about their mainstream commercial ambitions. And the country’s biggest broadcasters are promoting them to the hilt with in-house advertising, plugs and coverage across multiple channels.
Also, Spanish films, whatever their ultimately universal themes, can also appeal to local sensibilities, said Barrois. Via culture clash comedy and romantic drama, the “Spanish Affair” franchise portrays ultimate harmony in a traditionally highly regional, fissiparous country.
Known in Spain as “Ocho Apellidos Vascos,” “Spanish Affair” saw Rafa, a dyed-in-the-wool Andalusian, relocates from Southern to the Basque Country to win over his sweetheart, Amaia, whose father in an equally die-hard Basque. He wins her heart, though his problems don’t stop there.
In “Ocho Apellidos Catalanes,” Rafa and Amaia’s father hotfoot to Catalonia to attempt to thwart Amaia’s wedding to her Catalan-to-the-core fiancé, whose dying mother is comforted by her offspring telling her she is living in an independent Catalonia, which is no longer part of Spain.
Grossing €56.2 million ($61.9 million) in Spain, an all-time record for a Spanish film, “Spanish Affair” also broke another record, running up this November on its free TV premiere getting on for 12 million viewers off a simulcast on Spanish TV channels Telecinco and Cuatro, then two further repeats.
“Spanish Affair 2” may also have broken another record, becoming the only film to be cited in a televised general election debate as Pablo Iglesias, the articulate leader of populist Podemos, gained street cred by invoking its title as a portrayal of a regional Spain living in harmony.
The biggest question raised by “Spanish Affair 2” is if there will be another sequel. If so, expect Hollywood’s studios to be more than highly interested in distributing it.