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Spanish Sales Agents Explore New Paradigms

For the first time in festival history, Spanish productions — Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” — will both open and close Cannes. In all, five Spanish titles made the festival cut, a recent record.

Such films speak of foreign auteurs’ fascination with Spain and its culture. They remain, however, “a minority” in Spain, says Juan Gordon at Morena Films, whose Alvaro Longoria produced “Everybody Knows.”

Spain’s industry “is driven by broadcasters investing in commercial films,” Gordon adds, acknowledging “a vitality in the industry” due to “the number of drama series getting made.”

“Two key factors are at work: Netflix, and the contraction of cinema-going arthouse audiences,” says Vicente Canales at Film Factory Ent., which represents Luis Ortega’s “El Angel,” in Un Certain Regard, and Jaime Rosales’ “Petra,” a Directors’ Fortnight player.

“Many Spanish films have sold to Netflix, some have functioned very well,” allowing the titles to penetrate broader markets, Canales adds, citing a parallel case in TV, “La Casa de Papel,” Netflix’s most-watched foreign-language series ever. Yet, “arthouse audiences are diminishing and becoming ever more selective.”

Film sales volumes can still be high, but only a handful of films have the strength to open theatrically in multiple territories abroad. Beyond those, prices paid per territory for titles have plunged.

So both Film Factory and Madrid-based Latido Films have verged in recent years toward bigger titles from Spain and Latin America, made ever more in multi-lateral international co-production.

Having sold Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn’s “The Distinguished Citizen,” Latido will represent Duprat’s “My Masterpiece” and Cohn’s “4 x 4”; “The Realm,” from “May God Save Us” director Rodrigo Sorogoyen; Alvaro Brechner’s “Memories From the Cell”; and Javier Fesser’s “Champions,” Spain’s No. 1 box office hit of this year, grossing €7.3 million ($9 million) through April 26.

Film Factory has upcoming titles such as “Animal” from Oscar winner Armando Bo, and Carlos Vermut’s “Quien te cantará.”

Meanwhile, the Netflix effect is indeed playing out over the whole of the international sales economy.

Netflix and Amazon’s movie acquisition opens up new opportunities, says Latido Films head Antonio Saura. Maintaining the availability of a film for theatrical distribution is a factor that is playing a “significant role in negotiation,” Saura adds, citing “Champions’” sales to France’s Le Pacte, Germany’s Concorde and Italy’s Movies Inspired.

“We’re living a mixed-model era,” says Ivan Díaz, head of international at Filmax. “The platforms have become big clients for sales agents. That can mean that some titles, before of limited market potential, now yield far more money. But we still sell to traditional distributors.”

Once one of Europe’s premier horror producers, Filmax had already moved into TV, producing “The Red Band Society.” Now, says Díaz, it attempts to have “the most varied slate possible for all kinds of clients.”

Other sales agents are looking to focus on certain kinds of cinema. Latido is betting on young women directors — Colombian Laura Mora’s “Killing Jesus” closed 20-plus territories. Arthouse distributors are looking ever more for feel-good films targeting women, says Canales.

Some markets or product lines are swelling. Latin America is living a “boom moment,” says Saura. Building fast in Spain, animation is yielding some of the biggest titles, whether family films (“Dragonkeeper”) or arthouse (“Unicorn Wars”).

Canada’s Pretty Parrot has set up a Spanish office, headed by Tania Pinto da Cunha.

“More and more distributors are looking for animation nowadays because family entertainment is becoming something that more and more buyers are able to exploit in many different ways,” she says.

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