Library deals, remake rights deals, movie production — Spanish film sales agents are diversifying in multiple ways to battle the uncertainty of current times.

The coronavirus pandemic has added another wrinkle to an already complex landscape, with sales agents at the crossroads between traditional distribution and streaming platforms.

In February, as the shock waves of the COVID-19 crisis threatened to reach the Berlinale, Spanish sales companies were rapidly doing business. But deals were already impacted by the impending pandemic.

“Everything was rushed after Berlin,” says Iván Díaz, head of international at Filmax, who at the European Film Market clinched several territory-by-territory sales on David Victori’s psychological thriller “No matarás” (“Cross the Line”), toplining Spanish star Mario Casas.

Mainly acquired for theatrical release, the film’s buyers include Wild Bunch in France, Russian Report for CIS, Cai Chang for Taiwan and Dexin for former Yugoslavia. Further contracts negotiated at the EFM were signed several weeks after.

“The distance in time for ‘Cross the Line’s’ Spanish theatrical release — scheduled for the fall — contributed to buyers’ peace of mind in maintaining their commitments,” Díaz says.

Bendita Films, a Canary Islands-based sales agency focused on features from emerging talents, closed at the EFM “an important number of distribution agreements whose execution has been sadly hampered by the global health crisis,” says Bendita managing director Luis Renart.

However, other Bendita commitments have held, such as a theatrical deal in Greece on Jonás Trueba’s summer dramedy “La Virgen de Agosto,” already an Outside Pictures pickup up for North America.

Over recent months, Filmax, as other sales agencies, has weathered the coronavirus storm by priming catalog deals.

“Library has become highly relevant for us. Movies like ‘The Machinist’ and the ‘REC’ saga have proven to have a large value for platforms,” Diaz says.
Filmax’s recent library deals took in European territories such as the U.K., Germany and Italy. It is in advanced talks to close another package in France.

Remake rights mark another growth business. As distributors acquire films more selectively for theatrical release, there’s an increasing number of titles that can go unsold. But that doesn’t stop them from being strong ideas for potential remakes.

“It is a very interesting exploitation window. Development teams can continue working on adaptation. It’s proving pandemic-proof,” says David Castellanos at Cinema Republic, a Madrid-based company specializing in movie remake rights.

“There’s a global demand for good scripts telling universal stories that can be adapted to all markets,” says Antonio Saura, CEO of Madrid-based Latido Films, which sold remake rights to Javier Fesser’s Spanish blockbuster comedy “Champions” to companies in France, India, China and the Middle East, among other territories.

“Comedy is the most in-demand film genre for adaptation,” Castellanos adds.

Exploring new market opportunities, Barcelona-based Film Factory Entertainment founder Vicente Canales and partner Julieta Videla recently launched production company Showrunner Films, whose early fruit is Netflix original film “Xtremo,” a thriller directed by Daniel Benmayor.

Business relationships have been carried out virtually. After the lockdown, the Cannes Marché du Film Online edition marks a chance for industry reunions.

“It was key to have a market at this time of the year, even with COVID-19,” says Saura, who will premiere Tornasol-produced road movie “The Sea Beyond,” by Achero Mañas, and Álvaro Díaz Lorenzo’s feel-good drama “Wishlist” at the event.

For Saura, “the online markets take place in extraordinarily adverse circumstances: Production stoppages, a distribution bottleneck and little visibility over future cinema theater attendance. All raise huge question marks.”

At the virtual Marché du Film, Film Factory will be screening Cannes Official Selection “Forgotten We’ll Be,” a Caracol TV production.

The film “plays off the momentum created by the label and will stand out more,” Canales says. “The Marché Online stars will be the 56 Cannes-label titles.”