Spain’s Biggest Box Office Release Moved Forward, Not Back, by Sony in Daring New Strategy

Father There is Only One, 2
Credit: Jorge Alvarino

As a second wave of COVID-19 escalates in Spain, Sony Pictures Releasing has moved up — not back — the local release of Santiago Segura’s family comedy “Father There is Only One 2,” the country’s biggest potential national blockbuster for 2020.

Originally scheduled to open in Spanish theaters on Aug. 7, the sequel to the biggest Spanish movie release of 2019 will now bow on July 29.

Sony Pictures Releasing is negotiating to screen in 300 or more theaters — the equivalent of 600 screens, an increase on the location spread of the original film — at a time when 40% of Spanish cinemas still remain closed. Some may reopen specifically to screen “Father 2.”

With no major Hollywood title hitting Spanish screens until “Mulan” on Aug. 21, if Disney is able to maintain that date, the success — or failure — of this bold counter-intuitive move on “Father 2” looks set to determine how the summer box office plays out in Europe’s fifth biggest movie market.

The decision risks returns on the second part of a family friendly franchise whose original installment grossed €14.2 million ($16.1 million) in Spain last year from an Aug. 1 bow.

Equally, an earlier release also allows the sequel a clearer run at the box office before more cinema theaters in Spain shutter — following in the wake of the closure of 267 screens at 28 theaters in Barcelona city and surrounding towns, which were forced to shut down on Saturday (July 18) at the mandate of Catalonia’s regional government.

The big question is whether the July 29 release date can supercharge Spain’s flagging box office, currently tracking at just 10%-12% of cinema theater total grosses for the same period last year. French box office, in comparison, was at about 35% of 2019’s same-period level last week, according to Comscore.

“The major difference between Spain and France is that France is less dependent on U.S titles,” said Eduardo Escudero, at independent Spanish distributor A Contracorriente Films.

“We have an obligation to help theaters. Without them, our future as producers ceases to make sense,” said “Padre” producer María Luisa Gutiérrez, at Segura’s Madrid-based Bowfinger International Pictures, one of Spain’s biggest movie production powerhouses.

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Father There is Only One, 2 Credit: Jorge Alvarino

“Unfortunately,” Gutiérrez continued in a statement, “huge American blockbusters are not going to save our country’s screens because they need returns from around the world to recover their costs. So we have to support cinema theaters in these difficult times with our national cinema.”

Gutiérrez told Variety that she hopes that, if “Father 2” does gain traction in Spain, distributors will be encouraged to bow other major national titles, such as “Operación Camerón,” which is on Disney’s distribution slate for Spain.

Not one of Spain’s new COVID-19 cases, now running at more than 1,000 a day, has been traced back to a cinema theater, she pointed out.

The number of cinemas open in the world has built week on week for 12 successive weeks, with 20% of the world’s movie theaters now open, according to Comscore.

“What Spain needs now is a local blockbuster,” said Escudero. “True, we now have wonderful weather and people are on the beaches, but there are no soccer matches for two weeks. We have to take advantage of this opportunity,” he added.

“Father There is Only One 2” — a provisional title — is produced by Bowfinger International Pictures and Atresmedia Cine, in association with Sony Pictures International Productions and with the participation of Atresmedia and Amazon Prime Video.

The sequel certainly has the potential to light a box office fire, starring and being directed and co-written by Segura, whose five-part “Torrente” movie series — featuring Segura as a memorably scumbag ex-cop — grossed a combined €79.9 million ($90.3 million) in Spain, establishing Segura as the country’s most popular comedy movie maker.

Inspired, at least for its original installment, by Argentina’s “10 Days Without Mom,” “Father There Is Only One” is far more family friendly than “Torrente,” turning on Segura as a father who has no idea how to rear his hugely lively five children, a task he has always left to his wife.

Segura and Gutiérrez’s moved-up release “is a testament to the importance of the big screen experience to those on the creative side of the business and a true vote of confidence in favor of movie theaters in Spain,“ said Paul Dergarabedian, at Comscore.