The major domestic box office successes of films such as “The Clan” and “Wild Tales” have established August as the month to release a big domestic film in Argentina. This year, Luiz Ortega’s “El Angel” not only joins those ranks, but tops them with the country’s largest ever first four-day box office trail of 56 million Argentine Pesos ($1.9million), from an Aug. 9 bow.
That number is slightly misleading when considering both inflation in Argentine and the devaluation of the Argentine peso when calculated U.S. dollar earnings, but the film’s almost 453,000 admissions is still the fifth best ever for a domestic release in Argentina.
Also worth consideration is that “El Angél,” opening Chile’s Sanfic Festival on Sunday, faces stiff box office competition this year, as the Ricardo Darín vehicle “An Unexpected Love,” set to open this year’s San Sebastián festival, also hit cinemas earlier this month and sold nearly 430,000 admissions in its first 11 days.
Perhaps the real winner though is actress Mercedes Morán, who stars in both.
“El Ángel” explores the dark beginnings of Argentina’s longest-serving prisoner and one of its most brutal killers, Carlos Robledo Puch, dubbed the “Angel of Death” because of his angelic blonde curls. Carlos started experimenting with petty crime in early adolescence, and in time his ambitions escalated to violent felonies up to and including murder as a means of showing off to Ramón, his first friend at a new school.
The success of so many domestic films, in August and year round, are indicative of an industry which has demonstrated its ability to make films that are both artistically ambitious, and at the same time have the potential to appeal to audiences. And, the major studios have leapt on this, particularly Disney, Universal, Warner Bros. and Fox, the latter distributing “El Angél” in Argentina and Latin America. Those companies have then nursed their films to results which rank Argentine cinema as the most successful domestic cinema in South America, with a domestic box office share of 13.2% in 2017.
“This new generation of young directors are very strong whether it be drama, comedy or thrillers, they have the talent to create a really high quality product that relates to new audiences,” said Griselda Fortunato, general manager of 20th Century Fox in Argentina.
She pointed out that this is a relatively new phenomenon, and that only in the last eight-ten years have domestic audiences had such successful domestic films to choose from, in whatever genre they prefer.
Sold by Film Factory, produced by Argentina’s K & S and Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo and co-produced by Argentine broadcast network Telefe – a quartet behind “Wild Tales” and “The Clan” – “El Ángel” also marks an incursion as a producer into feature film production of Underground Producciones, one of Argentina’s foremost drama series production houses (“El Marginal”).
“El Angel’s” launch also gives Buenos Aires-based K & S three of the five most attended Argentine film openings in history.
“We believe that the film, despite the strong competition, continues to have great potential,” K & S’s Matias Mosteirin told Variety. “It resonates with an adult audience, but also with young people, and it is becoming a kind of event movie with a high level of activity and recognition on social networks as well as traditional media.”
He added: “It is a film that works in theaters in the big cities as well as those on the outskirts, in cinemas of different socio-economic composition.”
John Hopewell contributed to this article