MADRID — Presenting its 2018-19 production-release slate, Atresmedia Cine, the movie production arm of broadcast network Atresmedia, confirmed Tuesday that it will co-produce Sergio Pablos’ Netflix series “Klaus,” as well as “The Sisters Brothers,” with John. C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix and Riz Ahmed.
Directed by Jacques Audiard, who catapulted to fame with “The Prophet,” “The Sisters Brothers,” a darkly-humored Western, is produced by Annapurna Pictures and France’s Why Not Productions and shot in the Spanish region of Almeria as well as Tabernas, Navarre, famed for its Dali-esque rock formations, and Aragon.
First presented at France’s Annecy Festival by Pablos and producer Gustavo Ferrada way back in 2015, when it was one of the buzz titles of the whole festival, “Klaus” marks the directorial debut of “Despicable Me” co-creator Pablos. With a strong voice cast – Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, J.K. Simmons and Joan Cusack – “Klaus” brings exquisite 2D animation to a warm origins story set in a quaintly snowy neo-Alpine village about a how a desperate well-meaning postal worker, Klaus, invents the figure of Santa Claus.
Netflix moved waves last month announcing it had acquired global rights to the feature, which is scheduled for Christmas 2019, becoming, as Cartoon Brew pointed out, the first major American entertainment company in recent years to fund a decently-budgeted hand-drawn animated feature.
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“The Sisters Brothers” and “Klaus” add to Atresmedia Cine swelling international production slate, which already includes:
*Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself,” also produced by FilmNation, Temple Hill Ent. and Spain’s Nostromo Pictures;
*Rodrigo Cortes’ “Down a Dark Hall,” with Uma Thurman and Annasophia Robb, also from Fickle Fish Films, Nostromo Pictures again, Temple Hill Ent.
*Animated feature “Dragonkeeper,” with Dragoia Media and Movistar +, a CGI family film based on the first of a six-book series from Carole Wilkinson and co-produced with the China Film Group;
*eOne Films has set an April 6 release date in Spain for a further Atresmedia Cine co-pro: Wim Wenders’ San Sebastian Fest opener “Immersion,” with James McAvoy and Alicia Vikander, a high-profile European co-production also produced by Lila 9th Productions. Back Up Media Studios, Neue Road Movies, Spain’s Morena Films, Submergence A.I.E and U Media.
Atresmedia Cine’s drive into international production is no coincidence. “Immersion,” “Down a Dark Hall,” “Life Itself” and “The Sisters Brothers” all partially shot in Spain.
“It’s important that Spain is on the radar as a locale for international shoots,” said Mercedes Gamero, Atresmedia Cine CEO. Giving productions “one leg in Spain” can help, she added.
The Spanish production force will certainly not give up on Spanish-language movies. On Tuesday in Madrid, it announced 14 releases for 2018, making it, in production volume terms, by far the biggest film producer in Spain. Next year bows feature eight comedies, among them “Sin rodeos,” with Maribel Verdu (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), a remake of Chilean Nicolas López’s “No Filter” and Santiago Segura’s first directorial outing after five “Torrente” movies.
“It’s a comedy, but completely different from what he’s done before, a film seen from a feminine POV,” Gamero commented.
But Atresmedia also aims for diversification, in film types and production and distribution partners, she said. Also on Atresmedia’s 2018 slate are two of, on paper, the most-anticipated upscale Spanish titles of the year. One is “Gun City,” a Barcelona 1921 gangster movie in the line of “The Road to Perdition” and “The Untouchables,” Gamero commented. Vaca Films, Atresmedia Cine and France’s Playtime Production produce; Dani de la Torre directs his follow-up to debut “Retribution,” a hot international seller. Distributed by Hispano Foxfilms and starring Luis Tosar (“Miami Vice”), “Gun City” has occupied prime box office real estate in Spain, bowing in August.
Also notable for its release date is Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “The Kingdom,” his “May God Save Us” follow-up produced by Tornasol and co-produced by France’s Le Pacte and Mondex & Cie. A Spain-set political corruption thriller starring Antonio de la Torre, rated in Spain as one of the best actors of his generation, “The Kingdom” is set for a Sept. 28 Spanish release, a date favored by movies that have just played in competition at San Sebastián.
But Atresmedia Cine’s international drive has at least a double logic. Its nine releases this year earned €31 million ($36.5 million) in Spain, accounting for a huge 31.8% of box office in Spain on all national theatrical bows, five placing in Spain’s 2017 Spanish movie Top 10. Atresmedia Cine’s Spanish cinema investment oscillates between €25 million ($29.5 million) and €30 million ($35.4 million) a year, Lejarza said.
Growth may come, however, from a diversification of revenue sources, as was underscored dramatically this year for producers Atresmedia Cine, Think Studio, Nostromo Pictures and Colosé Productions when Oriol Paulo’s “The Invisible Guest,” a neo-Hitchcockian thriller earned $25.9 million in China, where it opened No. 2 in the country, despite being shown in Spanish and having copies readily available on YouTube.
“This has been a good year. We’ve met objectives. But films aren’t just made for national markets these days,” said Mikel Lejarza, Atresmedia Cine president, confirming that all Atresmedia Cine’s 2017 films – two selected for the Berlinale and one, “Immersion,” opening San Sebastián – have grossed over €56 million ($66.0 million) globally. 2017 films such as “The Invisible Guest,” “The Invisible Guardian” and “Gold” still have to open in many foreign territories, Lejarza added; which could see overseas box office on 2017 releases trumping domestic results.
“The Invisible Guest” is now receiving remake offers, as is Paulo’s new title, “Mirage.” A modern-day Butterfly Effect thriller which teams Atresmedia Cine, Think Studio, Colosé and Warner Bros. Picture, though it still needs to cast, “Mirage” rates as one of the most buzzed-up titles in development in Spain.
Emiliano de Pablos contributed to this article