Post-COVID, Spanish sales companies look poised for a comeback to the global scene. Although, as Berlin’s EFM has gone virtual once again, their long-awaited physical reunion with the international industry will have to wait until Cannes… hopefully.
An argument for optimism: Spanish-language films continue gaining ground on the global market, especially as platforms boom. Standout examples include Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s “The Platform” and Lluís Quílez’s “Below Zero,” which both breach the top 10 most watched non-English language Netflix films of all time, per Variety’s estimations. Other Spanish films such as “The Paramedic,” “Sky High” and “Xtreme” have also performed well for the streamer.
Measuring with another analytic – Spain’s presence at landmark film events – the year kicked-off with good news from Berlin.
For the first time in the last quarter-century, two Spanish titles: “Alcarrás,” from “Summer 1993” director Carla Simon, and “One Year, One Night,” by two-time San Sebastian Golden Seashell winner Isaki Lacuesta (“Between Two Waters,” “The Double Steps” ), will vie for the Golden Bear. The Spanish presence at this year’s Berlinale also includes the world premiere of Alauda Ruiz de Azúa’s drama “Cinco lobitos” (“Lullaby”) in Panorama, sold by Latido Films.
In the mainstream, Fernando León de Aranoa’s Javier Bardem-starrer and Oscar shortlist contender “The Good Boss,” produced by The Mediapro Studio, will open the 2022 Miami Film Festival in March. Meanwhile, Penelope Cruz was nominated for lead actress Oscar for her work in Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers.”
“Any international achievement of a Spanish project increases confidence in our cinema,” says Gloria Bretones, Begin Again co-founder. “Thanks to that global success we are more visible than ever for acquisitions executives from platforms and TV operators.”
Ivan Diaz, head of international at Filmax, says, “Film and TV content exported from Spain has improved a lot,” . “The quality of scripts is much higher than it was a few years ago, on average. Working with global players has changed creators’ perspective; they think more about the international market when creating.”
Meanwhile, a combination of COVID-19 side effects and the VOD revolution is forcing sales agencies to diversify their operations.
New opportunities come from series production: Latido teamed with Colombia’s 64-A Films to develop, produce and distribute premium series in response to the huge demand from platforms, “a strategic decision for our future growth,” says Latido CEO, Antonio Saura.
Another option is movie production for platforms, according to Film Factory Entertainment’s Vicente Canales, recent co-founder of Showrunner Films. Its early fruit, Daniel Benmayor’s action thriller “Xtremo,” was an international hit for Netflix.
“We worked a lot with platforms before the pandemic. We also sold theatrical, but that route was paralyzed and has not yet fully recovered,” Canales explains.
Adapting to the theatrical decline, Film Factory’s sales strategy has been to focus on VOD and national TV rights, both with new films and library packages.
During the pandemic, platforms cemented themselves as necessary players in cinema distribution around the world. There is a feeling among movie sellers that a sale to an SVOD player compensates for traditional windows.
“We can’t only consider the large multinational players, there are other platforms with different areas of impact, territorial or genre, whose sum of returns can be very interesting,” Saura explains.
“In Latin America, a central territory for our sales, the platforms have penetrated quickly, making up for the lack of theatrical business; in Europe, a greater number of traditional distributors are still standing,” says Filmax’s Díaz.
Top Spanish sales agents thought the EFM was going to be a great return to the face-to-face market, but COVID delayed those plans.
“When the big reunion takes place, perhaps at Cannes, there will be a significant boost in business,” Díaz predicts.
Over the last two years, an international distributor release bottleneck has made sales agents very selective in launching new titles. That may be easing.
“Distributors have been hit hard. However, in order to move forward they need new content. Buyers are back on the hunt for movies, you can see their desire to purchase new products,” says Canales.
However, as box office receipts continue to sag, the competition in theaters looks higher than ever.
That’s why Film Factory is betting on bringing more mainstream, thriller-type features to the market, among them Alberto Rodríguez’s “Prison 77,” Víctor García’s “The Communion Girl,” and Colombian director Laura Mora’s “The Kings of the World.”
Although alive and kicking on the international scene, Spanish cinema still faces major challenges.
“As a result of the pandemic, market interest concentrates on a few titles with strong marketing elements. The challenge therefore is marketing, so that what we create from Spain arouses interest in the world,” says Saura.
“We must take advantage of the success at festivals of both large and small films to continue expanding interest in Spanish movies,” Bretones argues. “There is life beyond Europe or Latin America for them.”