Spain’s economic downturn has polarized the country’s film export business, with sales agents downsizing slates and looking further afield, namely to Latin America and Eastern Europe, to maintain strong lineups.

Spain continues to generate commercial hits, primarily co-produced by its two big broadcast groups, Atresmedia and Mediaset España, and a handful of international auteur hits. But budgets have plunged 60% from 2009 to $1.3 million as state and TV financing dwindles and the middle ground has significantly eroded.

In 2014, Spanish films recorded their biggest local market share since 1977 — 25% — as audiences flocked to escapist and romantic comedies such as the box office juggernaut “Spanish Affair.” Comedy is typically a tough overseas sell.

But Barbora Susterova of Imagina Intl. Sales believes that the right blend of comedy can work, citing “Isla Bonita,” directed by and starring Fernando Colomo. The film, she says, has a decidedly Woody Allen feel.

Imagina also represents Basque terrorist tale “The Lasa & Zabala Case,” Indian-Catalan story “Traces of Sandalwood,” the soccer documnetary “Messi” by Alex de la Iglesia and remastered Bunuel classics “Gran Casino” and “The Young One.”

Nerea Bautista of DeAPlaneta believes comedies travel if they tap into young people’s concerns. As examples, she cites Madrid-Berlin romantic comedy “Off Course,” which has grossed over $10.8 million in Spain; Malaga player “Girls’ Night Out”; and teen drama “The Misfits Club,” which grossed $3 million in Spain and, powered by strong social-media buzz, sold to nine territories, including Mexico.

Colette Aguilar’s Moonrise Pictures will screen “My Bakery in Brooklyn,” set in the U.S., while Filmax’s slate includes horror pics such as Jaume Balaguero’s “Muse,” Rafa Martínez’s “Sweet Home,” Alberto Marini’s English-language “Summer Camp” and Cesc Gay’s drama “Truman.” Also on tap are Antonio Chavarrias’ historical thriller “The Chosen” and Agusti Villaronga’s erotically charged “King of Havana.”

Thrillers are increasingly popular among Spanish sales agents, as the vanishing DVD market has undermined horror movies’ sales potential.

“Spain’s trump card used to be horror films,” says Vicente Canales, Film Factory and Fear Factory prexy. “Now it’s psychological action thrillers, which are much easier to sell.”

Film Factory will present promos of Alex de la Iglesia’s black comedy “My Big Night,” Fernando Molina’s romance “Palm Trees in the Snow,” the action thriller “Toro” and the heist movie “To Rob a Thief.”

Latin American pics also form a key part of Film Factory’s slate, including Chile’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner “To Kill a Man” and Guatemala’s “Ixcanul,” which took a 2015 Berlin Silver Bear. Having handled 2014 Cannes competition entry “Wild Tales,” Film Factory locked down world sales rights outside Latin America to Pablo Trapero’s “The Clan” from the producers of “Wild Tales.”

Latido Films, which appointed producer Antonio Saura as executive director in January, has a long tradition of repping Spanish and Latin American pics. Saura also aims to reinforce Eastern European titles.

Latido Latin American titles include Argentina’s “La Salada” and “Red Earth” and Celso García’s Mexican road movie “The Thin Yellow Line,” produced by Guillermo del Toro.
Saura is seeking out films with a strong human-interest bent, including the films “Line,” “Dirty Wolves,” “Breathless Time” and “Happy 140.”

“I’m looking for quality films that focus on human issues that pose major life challenges,” says Saura.

He is also scouting for new talent in Spain.

“The current anger, despair and rage will generate new visions,” he says. “We’re now seeing a fantastic generation of new Spanish filmmakers, like the creative energy we saw in Romania a few years ago.”