Warner Bros. Ups Ante on Spanish Production, Unveils ‘Moomios’ (EXCLUSIVE)


Underscoring a larger perceived global market potential for Spanish movies, Warner Bros. Pictures Intl. España is upping its bet on Spanish film production, in volume, budgets and talent.

Once largely acquiring, and then releasing in Spain, around six national films annually, the Hollywood studio now plans to invest in, or officially produce, eight-10 features a year, with Spanish star-studded casts and top directorial talent.

Disclosed to Variety as Warner Bros. Spain unveiled its 2020-21 slate at Spain’s San Sebastian Festival, the bigger push into Spanish production will also see the Hollywood studio continuing to partner on a joint development fund with Atresmedia Cine – a title-by-title non-exclusive alliance which is emerging as a key production axis on the Spanish movie scene.

At San Sebastian, Warner Bros. España updated Spanish media on five Spanish titles on its 2020-21 release slate, all produced by Atresmedia Cine, in association with Buendía Estudios. It also sneak peaked to Variety in exclusivity a scene from “Moomios,” Warner Bros España’s signature upcoming animated feature.

In the scene, dashing protagonist Tut, a chariot racer – living in a world underneath the Pyramids peopled by very much alive Ancient Egypt mummies – faces off in a battle of egos with the Pharaoh’s beautiful daughter. As the two assure one another that sparks are guaranteed not to fly, one gets the impression that both are merely putting on a bold front.

A Warner Bros. España production, “Moomios” is set up at 4 Cats Pictures, founded by Jordi Gasull (“Tadeo Jones,” “Capture the Flag”), who co-wrote and produced. Plushly animated, with a touch of 2D daintiness to character design, “Moomios” is aimed for a late fall or Christmas 2021 release.

In a bullish statement of Spanish movie potential, the five Atresmedia Cine-Warner Bros movies involve some of the biggest names in the Spanish industry.

*Barbara Lennie (“Magical Girl”) will star in “Los renglones torcidos de Dios,” a period mystery thriller with a gender issue edge. Set at a psychiatric ward, it has a charismatic, before-her-times woman checking into a psychiatric ward to investigate a homicide. Or so she claims. Oriol Paulo (“The Invisible Guest,” “Mirage”) directs; Filmayer and Nostromo also produce.

*Santiago Segura, whose “Father There Is Only One 2” has earned $11.9 million in Spain this summer, will direct, headline and produce “A Todo Tren,” a madcap train-set comedy from Atresmedia Cine, Bowfinger and Amiguetes, set for a Jan. 11 shoot.

*”The Red Band Society” scribe Albert Espinosa has penned “Live Is Life,” a “Stand By Me”-ish 1980s tale now wrapping its shoot in Galicia. Dani de la Torre (“Elite”) directs.

*Daniel Monzón (“Cell 211”) is shooting “Las Leyes de la Frontera,” written by Alex de la Iglesia co-scribe Jorge Guerricaechevarría, a 1978-set tale of summer adolescent love with a social issue edge.

Further WB-Atresmedia Cine titles take in “Mamá o Papá,” sneak-peeked at San Sebastian, a remake of 2015 French original “Papa ou maman,” but now starring Paco Léon (“Arde Madrid”); and dramedy “Los buenos modales,” written and directed by Marta Díaz de Lope Díaz.

To date, Spain’s content boom has largely revolved around series, such as “La Casa de Papel,” whose Part 4 was watched around the globe by 65 million Netflix households in its first four weeks.

The same factors priming that overseas boom can also benefit movies from Spain, Pablo Nogueroles, Warner Bros. Pictures Intl. España SVP and director general, told Variety.

“There are 500 million people who speak Spanish, 48 million in the U.S. alone. Warner Bros. has acquired Spanish films for the last 20 years, but we now we want a bit more skin in the game,” Nogueroles said.

That cuts several more ways. Warner Bros. is taking international rights on titles, such as sweeping period romance “El Verano que Vivimos,” produced with Atresmedia Cine, Bambu Producciones and La Claqueta, and the subject of a charity screening at this year’s San Sebastian.

Also, budgets on select titles are scaling up. Compared to Paulo’s previous films, “Renglones’” setting will represent “a quantum leap” in production value, he said at San Sebastian. “Moomies” has a budget in the $11 million-$12 million range, “expensive for Spain, but a fraction of the cost of what it would cost to make it in the States,” Nogueroles pointed out.

China is another potential growth market for Spain, said Mercedes Gamero, Atresmedia Cine director general, noting Paulo’s “The Invisible Guest” and “Mirage” grossed $26 million and $23 million there respectively.

She added: “People sometimes think Atresmedia Cine only produces local comedies. Our slate is much broader, as this San Sebastian presentation underlines.”