×

Movistar + Moves Into Original Film With Alejandro Amenábar’s Next Project (EXCLUSIVE)

Movistar +, the high-flying pay-TV division of Telefonica, one of Europe’s biggest telecoms, is powering into original film production with a project by Spanish director Alejandro Amenábar (“The Others”).

The move is aimed at driving up subscriptions at Telefonica’s mobile and fiber-optic services in the Spanish-speaking world. But it also marks a potential milestone in the Spanish-language movie industry as Movistar + takes the lead on productions of big films that few other companies have the money or commercial logic to create.

Movistar +’s original films could prove catnip for Hollywood, which has seen big Spanish-language titles backed by broadcast networks Mediaset España and Atresmedia sometimes outearn Hollywood studio releases in Spain.

Movistar +’s inaugural film is “Mientras dure la guerra” by Amenábar, who directed “The Others” with Nicole Kidman, “Agora” with Rachel Weisz, and Oscar-winning “The Sea Inside” with Javier Bardem. Amenábar’s last movie in Spanish was released in 2004.

“Mientras dure la guerra,” set during the Spanish Civil War, will be produced with Spain’s Mod Producciones, whose co-founder, Fernando Bovaira, has produced all of Amenábar’s movies since the director’s sophomore outing, “Open Your Eyes” (1997). Mod also produced Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Biutiful” and Spain’s first big pay-TV drama series, “Crematorium.”

Written by Amenábar, “Mientras dure la guerra” (which translates into English as “While the War Lasts”) will shoot for eight weeks, starting next Monday, in Salamanca, Madrid, Toledo, Chinchón and the Basque country. The film is set in 1936, as Fascist leader Francisco Franco and fellow generals rise up against the republic. The film follows one of Spain’s greatest writers, Miguel Unamuno, during the tumultuous first months of the Spanish Civil War.

Although he first supported Franco, Unamuno went on to raise his voice in opposition, which cost him his career and could well have cost him his life. His actions have become a moral touchstone in Spain.

 

“This project is very special for me, being the first that I’ll shoot in Spanish in a long time,” Amenábar said, adding that the film, “despite portraying the recent past of Spain, talks very directly about its present.”

Bovaira said: “This is the story of a military man and a man of letters, the confluence and conflict of two worlds at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.”

Film Factory Entertainment has acquired sales rights to the film outside Spain.

Telefonica Studios, Movistar +’s first production unit, which bowed in September 2013, took minority equity positions in 10 films in 2015 and a similar number in 2016. It will continue to invest in riskier smaller movies such as “Campeones,” currently heading towards $20 million at the Spanish box office.

With “Mientras dure la guerra,” Movistar + will begin taking full or majority stakes in three to four movies a year by 2021, said Sergio Oslé, head of Movistar +. Talent, including directors, will in most cases be Spanish or Latin American.

“We believe there is a large creative space which is not being occupied for films of a large ambition with the greatest talents in Spain or Latin America,” Oslé said.

”Though people talk a lot more about series, cinema is still highly popular with our clients, one of our most watched contents,” added Domingo Corral, Movistar + director of original fiction.

Whether the films go straight on to Movistar + or have simultaneous theatrical releases will be decided on a case-by-case basis. “Mientras dure la guerra” will be seen in cinemas and then only on Movistar +, Corral said.

The move into original movie production comes on the heels of upbeat results for Movistar’s first slate of original series releases. “As we have grown comfortable and confident with the success of our series, their process and how we relate with talent, it’s a natural step for us to engage in projects that are closer to the movie space,” Oslé said.

With an expected slate of 12 or more premium drama series and four big movies a year, Movistar + is set to outproduce its digital rivals in Spain, a country where local TV fiction and select big Spanish movies have proved highly popular.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Rounds

    Sarajevo Film Review: 'Rounds'

    Five features (plus a scattering of documentaries) into his career, leading Bulgarian writer-director Stephan Komandarev has resisted cultivating a clear thematic or stylistic throughline to his oeuvre. Yet his latest, the overnight police patchwork “Rounds,” feels surprisingly close to quintessential, pulling as it does plot points, structural models and tonal switches from his previous films [...]

  • Travis Scott Surprises Fans With Netflix

    Travis Scott Surprises Fans With Netflix Documentary Reveal, Pop-Up in Houston

    Travis Scott just revealed his new Netflix documentary in the most organic way possible: a social media post to his 18.5 million followers on Instagram. The photo consisted of him holding a series of VHS tapes, which turns out to be the trailer for his forthcoming documentary on Netflix titled “Look Mom I Can Fly.” [...]

  • Overcomer

    Film Review: 'Overcomer'

    No matter the setting or circumstances, the solution to every dilemma found in Christian Evangelical films is getting closer to God. That certainly holds true with regards to “Overcomer,” the latest bit of bigscreen proselytizing by writer-director-star Alex Kendrick (“War Room,” “Courageous”). The story of a high school basketball coach who’s forced to take over [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Inside the Spider-Man Split: Finger-Pointing and Executive Endgames

    Spider-Man’s neighborhood has been decidedly unfriendly this week. A private and contentious battle over the onscreen future of the beloved Marvel superhero has spilled out into the public square over the past few days. After making nice for two wildly successful films, Sony Pictures, which holds the licensing rights to the Marvel character, will go [...]

  • Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch for 2019

    Variety has announced its 10 Actors to Watch for 2019, an honor the publication has bestowed since 1998. Past honorees include many future Oscar winners and nominees, such as Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o and Melissa Leo. This year’s honorees will be feted in the Oct. 27 issue of [...]

  • August Maturo

    Film News Roundup: August Maturo to Star in Horror Movie 'Slapface'

    In today’s film news roundup, August Maturo gets a starring role and “Death of Me” and “Fatale” find homes. CASTING “Girl Meets World” star August Maturo has been cast as the lead character in the upcoming indie horror feature, “Slapface.” Maturo will play a boy who deals with the loss of his mother by creating [...]

  • Taron Egerton, Lucy Boynton to Star

    Taron Egerton, Lucy Boynton to Star in Virtual Reality Project 'Glimpse'

    Taron Egerton and Lucy Boynton will star in “Glimpse,” a new virtual reality experience that will be unveiled at the Venice Film Festival. Written and directed by Benjamin Cleary and VR creator Michael O’Connor, “Glimpse” will be entered in the Venice Virtual Reality Interactive showcase. It’s set in the imaginative mind of a heartbroken panda, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content