×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spanish Broadcasters Bankroll Film Growth

While Hollywood might have moved away from producing mid-budget movies for adults, Spain has moved in. Two broadcaster-backed production houses, Mediaset España’s Telecinco Cinema and Atresmedia Cine, can now create event movies that can blow even Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters out of the water in Spain.

They have snagged Academy Award nominations, including for Naomi Watts in “The Impossible,” and yielded some of the world’s highest-grossing independent movies; “The Impossible” garnered $180 million worldwide. Though all made out of Spain, given their high budgets, they attract Hollywood partners, especially if shot in English. Produced by Apaches Ent., Telecinco Cinema and Peliculas La Trini, “A Monster Calls” was financed and distributed by Focus Features, River Road, Participant Media and Lionsgate.

They also look set to yield some of Spain’s biggest international sellers, such as Telecinco Cinema’s upcoming “Marrowbone,” a Cannes 2016 sales hit for Lionsgate.

Why Mediaset España and Atresmedia Cine are leaning into event movies is another matter.

“Atresmedia Cine and Telecinco Cinema have made a virtue out of necessity,” says Pablo Carrera, principal analyst, cinema, IHS technology.

Since 1999, both are required by law, in an optional transposition of the EU Television Without Frontiers Directive, to designate a percentage of annual revenues into Spanish or European films, pre-buying or co-producing projects.

That percentage is traditionally low, just 3%. But as Mediaset España and Atresmedia Group’s yearly revenues have grown — from 2009-16, the companies’ revenues increased 51% and 45% to €992 million ($1.09 billion) and $1.12 billion, respectively, as Spain has clawed its way out of a recession — that obligatory investment has grown as well. Both are seeking to meet it by a smaller number of larger films.

“We can’t just make €3 million-budgeted [$3.3 million] comedies. Besides, we’d have to make 15 a year,” says Mercedes Gamero, Atresmedia Cine CEO. Furthermore, making bigger films is “part of our obligation to help Spanish cinema grow, getting the Spanish public used to high-end Spanish cinema.”

Big Spanish movies also play well in Antena 3’s Sunday evening movie slot. “It’s good for audiences to watch them in the same slot as Hollywood blockbusters,” she adds.

Moving into event movies, both Telecinco Cinema and Atresmedia Cine can be encouraged by recent results. From 2002 to 2010, only one Spanish movie, J.A. Bayona’s “The Orphanage,” topped Spanish box office charts. Since 2011, Atresmedia Cine and Telecinco Cinema movies have maxed out at No. 1 on five of the past six years. Two Bayona movies have seen off all Hollywood competition: 2012’s “The Impossible” ($54.5 million) and 2016’s “A Monster Calls” ($28.2 million) with Liam Neeson and Sigourney Weaver.

2014’s chart-topper, Basque Country culture clash comedy “Spanish Affair,” grossed $77.5 million, four times the take of its nearest Hollywood rival, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” ($17.5 million).

Imposing an obligation on broadcasters to invest in local movies, Jose Luis Aznar’s government copied French stipulations. But Spain’s regulations differ in two crucial aspects. There is no limitation on primetime advertising of movies, as in France. And broadcasters can not only pre-buy but also co-produce movies.
“Telecinco Cinema is embedded in a very aggressive media group willing to promote the hell out of the movies produced by its subsidiary,” says Ghislain Barrois, Telecinco Cinema CEO. “The promotion without the film behind it just doesn’t work, and vice versa.”

“A limited production slate maintains the uniqueness of each cinema event,” says Carrera.

Co-producing, Telecinco Cinema “can diversify risk across results from broadcast, theatrical and second windows in Spain and international,” Barrois says, not risking everything on broadcast, allowing for a “more varied” slate than French counterparts who can just pre-buy movies.

Barrois’ comments are borne out by both companies’ 2017 slates. Telecinco Cine’s biggest plays this year range from the Lionsgate-sold chiller “Marrowbone” to a Congo-set thriller, “Sara’s Notebook.” Atresmedia Cine’s biggest movies include “Gun City,” a 1920s Barcelona gangster movie; Conquistador epic “Gold”; and China-set fantasy toon “Dragonkeeper.”

“Both production houses have developed and nurtured relationships with key and new creative talent and Spain’s main production houses,” Carrera says.
Above all, big Spanish movies may resonate more with Spanish audiences than their Hollywood counterparts.

That could be a question of demography. As with much of Europe, Spanish theatrical audiences may skew much older than in the U.S: In France in 2015, those over age 50 represented 43.5% of theatrical audiences, the CNC estimates.

“Hollywood caters to teenagers in the U.S. and Asia. That leaves a big chunk of Europe hungry for more elaborate stories,” Barrois says.
Also, outside of sports, Spain loves to laugh at its heroes: After all, Cervantes wrote “Don Quixote” to make people laugh. Two of Telecinco Cine’s biggest upcoming titles, “Tad Jones, the Hero Returns” and “Superlopez,” indeed spoof Hollywood super-hero behemoths with their own more bathetic counterparts.

Meanwhile Spain, the world’s 13th biggest movie market, ranked just 18th in box office on “Captain America: Civil War.”

“Live-action hero movies have a lower roof in Spain than many other territories,” Gamero says. “U.S. comics are pop culture, but not our pop culture.”

More Film

  • Midnight Traveler review

    Film Review: 'Midnight Traveler'

    Refugees rarely get to tell their own stories, which means their stories get told for them — often inaccurately and with undue hostility. Lack of resources is one issue, but a lack of stability is another: Asylum-seekers are in a frightening state of limbo, fleeing the imminent dangers of their native countries only to suffer [...]

  • WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make

    WGA Authorizing Managers, Lawyers to Make Deals if Agents are Fired

    The Writers Guild of America has authorized managers and lawyers to negotiate deals for writers in place of agents — if the guild tells members to fire their agents on April 7. The guild’s negotiating committee notified members of the plans in a message Wednesday. The WGA and the Association of Talent Agents having made [...]

  • Gone With the Wind Screening

    Film News Roundup: 'Gone With the Wind' Sets Event Cinema Record

    In today’s film news roundup, “Gone with the Wind” sets a new record, “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” is acquired, and Tracy Oliver signs with Topic Studios. EVENT CINEMA RECORD The 80th anniversary release of “Gone with the Wind” has grossed $2.23 million in six nationwide screenings on four dates — a record as the [...]

  • Made in Abyss - Journey’s Dawn

    Film Review: ‘Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn’

    It’s a Herculean effort to take a multi-volume manga like author Akihito Tsukushi’s “Made in Abyss,” adapt it into a popular anime television series, and then compress the show into a coherent feature (technically, two movies), but the folks at Sentai Filmworks have done just that. Part one, “Made in Abyss: Journey’s Dawn,” will screen [...]

  • HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market

    HAF: 'Assassination,' 'Apprenticeship' Named Project Market Winners

    Eighteen prizes were presented on Wednesday afternoon at the closing ceremony of the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. The project market sits alongside FilMart as part of the Entertainment Expo in Hong Kong. “Wong Tai Sin Assassination” to be directed by Wong Hoi and produced by Derek Kwok Tsz-kin, was named the winner of [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Makes Concession on Film Financing in Agent Talks

    The Writers Guild of America has made a concession in film financing in its negotiations with Hollywood talent agents — the second in six weeks of talks. WGA West executive director David Young said Wednesday that it had made a “significant move” toward reaching a deal with the Association of Talent Agents for a revamped [...]

  • Noah Centineo He-Man

    Noah Centineo to Play He-Man in 'Masters of the Universe' Reboot

    From a boy (who’s loved) to He-Man. Noah Centineo is in talks to take on the superhero in Sony Pictures and Mattel Films’ “Masters of the Universe.” Brothers Adam and Aaron Nee are directing the reboot. Mattel Films is partnering with Sony on the movie, which is based on Mattel’s beloved toy line that spawned [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content