Netflix Acquires Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Parallel Mothers’ for Latin America (EXCLUSIVE)

Parallel Mothers
Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics

Netflix has acquired exclusive rights for Latin America to Pedro Almodóvar’s “Parallel Mothers,” which won Penélope Cruz the best actress award at September’s 78th Venice Film Festival.

Struck by Netflix and El Deseo, Pedro and brother Agustín Almodóvar’s Madrid-based production company, the deal marks the first time that Netflix has taken all and exclusive rights to a territory on a first-run Almodóvar film.

Hailed by Variety as Almodóvar’s best movie since “All About My Mother,” “Parallel Mothers” will be released in Latin America at the beginning of the 2022, Netflix announced Tuesday.

Almodóvar’s films have traditionally been released by a stable network of theatrical distributors. Announced this April, for instance, Sony Pictures Classics acquisition of rights to North America, Australia and New Zealand on “Parallel Mothers” represented the 13th collaboration between the distributor and El Deseo.

Latin America’s distinct distribution challenge, however, is that it is grossly under-screened. Internet access, in contrast, is becoming increasing common currency.

“Latin America’s a very important territory for Pedro’s films given its potential, diversity and the loyalty of fans who have follow Almodóvar’s films for years,” said “Parallel Mothers’” producers  at El Deseo, Esther García and Agustín Almodóvar.

They added: “We hope that this new contract improves existing fan base access conditions and also adds a new public, growing the population of planet Almodóvar.”

Netflix has already acquired SVOD rights in Spain and select foreign territories to 15 Almodóvar films.

News of the Netflix Latin America deal comes as Netflix is ringing the changes on its distribution models – seen in the celebration this December of a Film Club of nine recent and upcoming movie releases at France’s Cinematheque and Lumière Institute.

“For a while, one of Netflix’s pillars was taking rights to the world leaving out Spain,” Juan Mayne, Netflix director of content acquisition and Spanish-language co-productions, told Variety.

But “our strategy for Spanish films has been evolving over time and this is no longer the case. Our main goal is to bring Spanish films to our members all over the world,” he added.

Mayne did not rule out “Parallel Mothers” having theatrical openings in Latin America: “Over the past few years we’ve released about 30 films a year in theaters; some day-and-date and some pre-released in cinemas before they were on Netflix.  Each release we have is bespoke.”

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The Platform Latido Films

Spanish Films’ 100 Million Audience on Netflix

In a drive to underscore the success of Spanish movies on Netflix, the U.S. streaming giant also revealed to Variety in exclusivity on Tuesday that about 50% of Netflix members around the world – around 100 million paying subscribers – have chosen to watch at least one Spanish film on Netflix, both branded and non-branded, over the past 12 months.

That figure dips, but not drastically in India (~40%) and the U.S., (~45%) and rises in Turkey (~60%). Watching is currently defined by Netflix as catching at least two minutes of a title.

Between 2016 and Sept. 2021, Netflix has launched over 50 titles Made in Spain – counting series, movies and documentaries – and participated in 70 film productions, it said.

Since releasing its first Spanish original film, “7 años,” in 2016,  Netflix’s production in Spain has built, from three branded movies in 2020, to five this year and at least seven for 2022 (see table).

That’s hardly very surprising. According to Variety’s own estimates, based on households watched figures released by Netflix for standout titles, three if not four Netflix Spanish shows or movies – “Money Heist” (Part 4, 65 million accounts) “The Platform,” (56 million), “Below Zero” (47 million) and possibly “Elite” (Season 4, 37 million) – would make a top 10 of the most watched non-English language Netflix titles of all time.

As already published, some of the most popular Spanish movies include not just “The Platform” and “Below Zero” but “The Paramedic,” “Sky High” and “Xtreme.” All are horror or action thrillers.

These and other stats, as well as Netflix film strategy for Spain, were broken down for Variety by Mayne and Teresa Moneo, Netflix director international original film, just days after Netflix presented six new Spanish projects at a Oct. 28 content roadshow in Madrid:

Can you very briefly outline your remits?

Juan Mayne:I develop and execute our film strategy for Spain and am responsible for all our investments in Spanish films, from catalog acquisitions to the commissioning of globally branded films coming out of Spain.

Teresa Moneo: I oversee the film strategy for Spain and I’m focusing on bigger scale feature film productions coming out of Spain and Italy, as well as some pan-European projects as part of our European strategy (one of our fastest-growing regions).

You’re raising from five to 10 the number of sound stages at Netflix’s European Production Hub just outside Madrid. Does that imply you’ll be producing more branded movies? 

MoneoWe are working alongside creators to bring more Spanish films and great stories  to our members in the coming years. While movies tend to be produced in locations outside, we are happy to see our hub facilities expanding and excited about the options that these bring to the creative community in Spain and beyond.

A lot is made of the scale of the global Spanish-language market. And the success of Spanish shows and movies. Is this primarily because of the size of the Latin American Spanish-speaking audience or are other factors also in play?

Moneo: The data showcases how Spanish stories connect with members around the world (from Turkey to the U.S. and India….),  how it is possible to break language barriers, and how, thanks to technology, non-Spanish speaking audiences can also enjoy these films. Having said that, it’s well known that Latin America countries also enjoy Spanish content and vice versa.

Teresa, you’re focusing on bigger scale feature film productions coming out of Spain and some pan-regional projects. Will you soon be announcing any new titles in either category? 

MoneoWe have some very exciting projects in development but it’s too early to mention any of them. Big announcements coming soon. Stay tuned!

You’ve had Spain-Latin American crossovers in series such as “Someone Has to Die,” one of your most highly-regarded shows, and now “Santo.” Can you see this happening ever more in films as well?

Mayne Spain and almost all of Latin America share the same language. The crossovers are not new, they have been happening long before the birth of streaming entertainment. What’s different now is that, in light of our commitment to the Spanish film industry, we’re working to innovate in the production space so that creators on both sides of the Atlantic can have access to the best possible production facilities, tools, and resources to bring their stories to life.

“Xtreme’s” chopsocky smackdowns are highly impressive. In general where top Spanish movies worldwide excel is in bringing an original twist to a genre. “The Platform” is a horror thriller, but also resonant social allegory. “Below Zero” is a prison transit van thriller – where somebody’s trying to break into the van not out. I wonder if you could comment….

MayneWe take great pride in providing artistic freedom for those “original twists” to come to life. Spain has long had very unique voices and one of our commitments is to provide a global platform for those creators to be heard. In our mission to bring the best stories, we are proud to be working on a variety of titles, next year for instance we will release a few genre projects like “The Wasteland,” the first movie from David Casademunt, and series like “Feria: La luz más oscura” and “Alma,” amongst others.

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Below Zero

“Below Zero,” “Sky High” and “Xtreme” figure among most popular Spanish Netflix films of all time. They’re all action movies. Do you see the rise of well crafted action movies as a building trend in Spain? 

MayneWe’ve certainly identified the potential the Spanish film industry has to become a growing source of creatively excellent action movies. The talent is all here, it has been here for over a decade. Some of Hollywood’s biggest action franchises have been shot in Spain, so in terms of technical expertise, we already have best in class talent. We also have best in class talent both in front and behind the camera, and what we’re working on with the creative community is to create larger worlds and storylines than they have in the past so that we can achieve our goal of elevating Spanish action movies to their fullest potential.

That said, your early 2022 lineup suggests you’re making and acquiring Spanish films across a broad range of genres and types for a plethora of demographies. Do you see any genres which Spain or indeed European cinema still has to try out? “Xtreme,” for instance, looks like a pioneering Spanish martial arts movie….

Mayne: At our content roadshow, we announced two very different projects, “Infiesto” and “Nowhere,” and we still want to explore all types of stories, formats and genres.

What for you marks Spain apart in the type of films it makes? Or maybe what marks Spain apart isn’t the type of film….

Moneo: There are many reasons that set Spain apart: a long tradition of storytelling, a variety of different stunning locations for films, an incredible talent pool in front and behind the camera, outstanding technical companies and capacities …

On the third quarter earnings call, Netflix co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos stressed that the way to drive subscribership is by improving the quality of the service. One key looks like talent. Do you plan any more talent deals along the lines of Alex Pina’s?

Mayne: We are constantly looking to work with the best talent as part of our commitment to creative excellence, and, where it makes sense, we are open to discussing deals along the lines of Alex Pina’s with other talent. We’re looking for talent that we believe in and if the opportunity arises we are open to it.

Would another key factor in growing Spanish films’ popularity abroad be the creation of a Spanish-language star system? Are you looking for some of the stars you’ve helped create to return for movies?

Moneo: We are very open and excited to provide talent a worldwide platform. To give you a recent example, we believe the emerging protagonists of “Through My Window” have the right chances to become global stars in the near future.

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The Wasteland Credit: Netflix

Netflix Spanish Branded Original Films Since Launch

2016: “7 Años”

2017: “Bomb Scared” (“Fe de Etarras”)

2019: “Despite Everything” (“A pesar de todo”); “Elisa & Marcela”; “Seventeen” (“Diecisiete”); “Who Would You Take To A Deserted Island?” (¿A quien llevarías a una isla desierta?”); “Klaus”?

2020: “The Occupant” (“Hogar”); “The Paramedic” (“El practicante”); “Unknown Origins” (“Orígines Secretas”)

2021: “Below Zero” (“BajoCero”); “Crazy About Her” (“Loco por ella”); “Xtremo”; “Sounds Like Love” (“Fuimos canciones”);

“1,000 Miles From Christmas” (“A 1000 km de la Navidad”)

2022: “The Wasteland” (“El páramo); “Through My Window” (“A través de mi ventana”); “Las niñas de cristal”, “Amor de madre”; “Centauro”; “Rainbow”; “Un hombre de acción”;

Announced Oct. 28, 2021: “Infiesto,” “Nowhere.”