‘A Monster Calls’ Becomes Biggest Movie Hit of the Year in Spain

J.A. Bayona’s Liam Neeson starrer overhauls 'The Secret Life of Pets' to take Spain's 2016 box office crown

A Monster Calls TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

MADRID – A hat trick: “A Monster Calls” has overtaken “The Secret Life of Pets” to become the highest-grossing film in Spain so far this year, besting big Hollywood studio titles and giving director Juan Antonio Bayona his third No. 1 movie of the year, at least for now.

Starring Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson, and distributed by Universal Pictures Intl., “A Monster Calls” grossed €235,341 ($262,057) on Friday at Spanish cinema theaters for a total Spanish gross of €21.9 million ($24.4 million), and counting.

Bayona’s first feature, “The Orphanage,” which was godfathered by Guillermo del Toro, topped Spanish movie charts in 2007, earning €25.1 million ($27.9 million) and again beating all Hollywood contenders; “The Impossible” (€42.4 million, or $47.2 million) followed suit in 2012.

Whether Bayona can hold on to his current title as 2016 box-office champ remains to be seen, however. “A Monster Calls” may face tough competition from “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

Even so, the film’s performance looks set to give Bayona three of the six biggest Spanish movie hits of all time in his native Spain. Only Emilio Martinez Lazaro, who helmed both “8 Apellidos Vascos” (€55.4 million: $61.7 million) and “8 Apellidos Catalanes”  (€35.4 million: $39.4 million), both broad farces that riff on nationalistic stereotypes in Spain (before, naturally, puncturing them), can compare in popularity.

All Bayona’s movies and Martinez Lazaro’s comedy diptych were co-produced by Telecinco Cinema, the powerful movie-production arm of TV network Mediaset España, which can bring finance, ambition and a long experience of making and marketing big Spanish films to domestic audiences. With “A Monster Call’s” current box-office haul, Telecinco Cinema will in the next week or so have co-produced five of the six highest-grossing Spanish movies of all time in Spain and 12 of the top 20.

The question now is how “A Monster Calls” plays abroad. Produced out of Spain by Apaches Ent., Telecinco Cinema and Peliculas La Trini, and financed and distributed by Focus Features, River Road, Participant Media and Lionsgate, which sold international rights to the film, “A Monster Calls” is slated to open in the U.S. via Focus Features on Dec. 23 on limited release, and from Jan. 6 on wide release.