MADRID — Netflix CEO Reed Hastings officially inaugurated the U.S. streaming giant’s Madrid Production Hub, its first European production center, on Thursday morning.
While the hub’s first three sound stages look impressively efficient, they are designed principally for TV work, not gargantuan movie blockbuster production.
So it was Netflix’s plans for Spanish production which rreally made an impact at the inauguration. Francisco Ramos, Netflix vice president original contents, revealed two new Spanish series: “El Inocente,” created by Oriol Paulo, produced by Belén Atienza and Sandra Hermida; and “Los favoritos de Midas,” co-creted by Mateo Gil, starring Luis Tosar, and produced by Adrián Guerra and Nuria Valls at Nostromo Pictures.
Based on a best-seller by Harlan Coben, written by Jordi Vallejo, Paulo and Guillém Clúa, “El inocente” turns on an ex-con, Mateo, who nine years before accidentally killed a man, who, now out of jail, and with his wife Olivia expecting their first child, is about to buy the house of his dreams. Then a shocking and inexplicable phone call from Olivia mobile destroys Mateo’s life for a second time. The eight-episode series is produced for Netflix by Spain’s Sospecha and Think Tank.
Created and written by Mateo Gil and Miguel Barros, “Los favorites de Midas” is a free adaptation of the Jack London story of the same title published in 1901. It centers on a wealthy impresario who suffers a macabre blackmail from a mysterious organization that threatens to periodically kill someone chosen by chance until he says an enormous sum.
Netflix also unveiled that “High Seas,” whose teaser poster was released April 4, will be released globally this Spring.
Hastings used the occasion to announce Netflix had 24 global originals in some phase of production or development in Spain, just two shooting currently – one “Money Heist” Part 3 – at the Production Hub. Over 40 other co-productions with Spain are in development or production. Netflix has to date worked with 13 different production companies. It employed 13,000 actors, technician and extras in Spain last year. This year that figure should go up to about 25,000, Hastings said.
“It turns out that not all interesting stories come from Hollywood. We’ve been investing in Europe… particularly in Spain. It all follows what people want to watch. we want to be part of the Spanish creative ecoystem. It’s incredible to see how Spanish productions such as ‘Elite’ and ‘Money Heist’ have conquered the hearts of of fans globally,” said Hastings, interviewed by Alvaro Morte, who played “Professor” Sergio Marquina in “Money Heist.”
Already up-and running , the Production Hub is located at Madrid’s Ciudad de la Tele (TV City), now re-baptized less colloquially the Secuoya Studios, a 10,000 square-meter (108,000 square-foot) campus in Tres Cantos, a satellite village 20 minutes’ drive north of the Spanish capital.
It currently consists of three 1,200 square-meter (12,900 square-foot) sound stages, making up one single 70,000 square-foot studio complex building. The main studio building is fronted by three storeys of swish open-plan offices and, t0 one side, a 250-seat auditorium where the Netflix inauguration took place.
Secuoya Studios has broken ground on second-phase construction which will enlarge its site to a total 22,000 square-meters (153,000 square feet). These include two more slightly-larger sound stages, both 1,500 square-meters (10,400 square feet) in size, which Netflix will occupy when finished, Ramos said at the packed inauguration on Thursday morning.
They should be very busy. Launching in Spain in Oct. 2015, Netflix has currently released three series – “Cable Girls,” its first Spanish Original Series, premiered on Netflix worldwide on April 28, 2017; “Paquita Salas” Season 2; and “Elite,” bowed last October.
Netflix also acquired from Atresmedia and released “Money Heist” (“La Casa de Papel”), which it declared in its first quarter results last year to be its most-watched foreign-language series ever. “Elite” was ranked by Parrot Analytics data as one of the most in-demand series throughout the world in October 2018.
“‘Money Heist’” “really galvanized interest in Spanish series,” Hastings said.
Netflix has now announced 14 more Spanish series led by “Money Heist” Part 3, which it now produces and is set for release on July 19, and “High Seas,” an luxury ocean liner-set period mystery drama from “Cable Girls’” Bambu Producciones, which it teased at the inauguration in a promo video of upcoming titles from Spain.
Hastings also used the occasion to talk about the competition.
“Although I love Netflix, I also watch HBO shows. I’m watching an Amazon show. The total ecosystem is much stronger by having more players. We’re seeking to make room for many new voices,” he said.
Netflix isn’t looking for specific formats, he added. “Across the company we’re open to all kinds of shows we think people want to watch.”
Much of the Netflix inauguration was dedicated to showcasing talent, actors and producers, now working with Netflix and part of Spain’s extraordinary drama series production boom.
“‘Money Heist’ shows that Spain can really do good shows,” Morte told Hastings.
“90% of people who have seen ‘Money Heist’ and ‘Cable Girls’ have seen them outside Spain, said Ramos, moderating a panel with producer Atienza, director Mariano Barroso, who co-directed Netflix’s “Criminal,” producer-screenwriter Teresa Fernández-Valdés, and Alex Pina, the co-show runner of “Money Heist.”
“What we now need is [more] talent, and maybe we should be making shows just for international,” said Fernández-Valdés, producer of “Velvet” and “Cable Girls.”
“We’ve always had the impression that there was a ceiling to budgets in Spain, so we shot in prisons, for example, because we could be narratively ambitious and economical,” “Money Heist” show runner Alex Pina said. That sense of limitation is now disappearing, he added.