Country Focus: Spain
2009: a year of ups and downs
10/05/2010 - In 2009, Spanish cinema displayed its greatest strengths and worst weaknesses, all of this topped off with a series of decisive reforms. Local productions once again showed their enormous talent and international appeal, led by Agora [trailer], Broken Embraces [trailer, film focus], Cell 211 [trailer, film focus] and Planet 51 [trailer], among others. However, internal divisions sprang up at times, especially over the reforms to the state funding system and the compulsory investment in film production by television companies. These continuous diatribes, combined with a new increase in the number of productions, which shows that many don’t understand the industrial dimension of cinema, means that, in times of intense crisis, the public’s image of the sector is not improved.
PRODUCTIONS INCREASES (AGAIN)
During the course of 2009, the number of productions in Spain rose again, reaching 186, including 51 co-productions (although only 137 were released in theatres), and this fact is pleasing fewer and fewer people. These productions, many of which have very low budgets, don’t reach the distribution stage with the chance of obtaining a slot at the box office unless they have a powerful television company behind them. So, among all the Spanish films released last year, only 16 grossed over €1m and only five exceeded the 1 million admissions mark.
Increasing numbers of professionals and institutions support the need to adjust the number of films on the market accordingly, an idea that has been defended by FAPAE Spanish Producers’ Association president Pedro Pérez, among others. The ICAA, which has been headed since last year by Ignasi Guardans, expressed its intention to reform state funding in a ministerial order, whose approval was delayed by Brussels for a few tense weeks due to a demand from the pugnacious Filmmakers Against the Order collective. Although it has not yet been put into practice, since the funding recipients will be announced in the second half of the year, the idea of the order is to support the production of bigger and more ambitious films.
AUDIENCES RETURN TO THEATRES
In spite of everything, the second half of 2009 will be remembered as one of the best seasons for Spanish cinema in recent times, during which for a brief period the market share peaked at 47%. Also, more importantly, films like Agora [trailer], The Secret In Their Eyes [trailer], Planet 51 [trailer], Spanish Movie [trailer] and, above all, Cell 211 [trailer, film focus] (also a major winner at the Goyas) showed that it is perfectly possible for a Spanish production to connect with audiences without abandoning artistic rigour. In any case, the market share for Spanish film during 2009 was just under 16%, below its real potential, which the institutions estimate to be 25%.
THE INSTITUTIONS DECIDE
In the middle of last year, there were two major challenges awaiting the recently appointed Culture Minister Ángeles González Sinde: piracy and the dispute between producers and television networks. And the government cannot be accused of paralysis, for laws have been passed to settle both conflicts: the Sustainable Economy Law and the Audiovisual Communication Law.
The first problem is trickier due to pirates’ ability to quickly and effectively adapt to any regulation. Spain, which tops all the piracy charts, has focused its efforts not on end users but on the websites that make said content available. Unlike other European countries, this measure puts the emphasis on protecting users.
The conflict between broadcasters and producers is more specific. The new law states that networks will have to continue to set aside 5% of their revenue for audiovisual production, but it includes a vitally important clause: 40% of that amount can be invested in producing drama series, a format not previously taken into account. This is no doubt a concession to broadcasters, for whom these series are a highly profitable and strategic sector, since the percentage of investment in film is sure to drop to 3%. If one puts these figures in the context of 2008, for Spanish cinema the loss would be approximately €50m.
GERARDO HERRERO - 322
The most prolific and international producer on the Spanish film scene finally saw his efforts rewarded with the Oscar for The Secret In Their Eyes [trailer]. His position, halfway between artistic rigour and audience appeal, is becoming a starting point for understanding the industrial value of cinema.
ÁLEX DE LA IGLESIA - 350
Though his ability to win over audiences with every one of his films was already clear, until now he hadn’t shown his skill for moving within the industry, something that he has amply demonstrated since becoming president of the Film Academy (and managing to get Pedro Almodóvar to present the Best Film Goya).
IGNASI GUARDANS - 377
The ICAA director probably wasn’t looking for the kind of visibility he has had in recent months. But things couldn’t have been much different considering the impact that the arrival of someone so clearly intent on reform has had in an industry with a tendency to resist change. For better or for worse, the sector seems to be moving forward with a well-determined plan.
DANIEL MONZÓN - 352
This former film critic won over audiences and critics with the love for cinema that oozes from his film Cell 211 [trailer, film focus], an absolute hit that swept up eight awards at this year’s Goyas. Monzón has the honour of having created Malamadre, who will join the gallery of the most memorable characters in the history of Spanish cinema.
Some of the most eagerly-awaited titles of the next few months will come from established auteurs – Pedro Almodóvar (La piel que habito), Álex de la Iglesia (A Sad Trumpet Ballad), Fernando León (Amador), Icíar Bollaín (Even the Rain [trailer, film focus]), Julio Médem ( Room in Rome [trailer, film focus]); major co-productions – Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful), Woody Allen (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger), Andrew Douglas (The Perfect Assassin), Andrucha Waddington (Lope [trailer]); young directors looking to bolster their reputations – J. A. Bayona (The Impossible), Achero Mañas (Todo Lo Que Tú Quieras), Daniel Sánchez Arévalo (Primos), Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intruders), Rodrigo Cortes(Buried), Jaume Balagueró (Sleep Tight and [rec] Apocalypse), Paco Plaza ([rec] Genesis), Daniel Carpalsoro (Invasor); and promising debut features – Eugenio Mira (Agnosia), Guillem Morales (Julia's Eyes), Kike Mailló (Eva), Eduardo Chapero-Jackson (Verbo), Xavi Giménez (Tranquility Valley).
KEY FIGURES FOR 2009
Population: 46.745 million inhabitants
Number of films produced: 186 (including 51 co-productions)
Total number of admissions: 109.986 million (107.8 in 2008)
Total box office takings: €671.043m (€619.92m in 2008)
Admissions for domestic films: 17.48 million (14.35 in 2007)
Box office takings for domestic films: €104.367m (€81.61m in 2007)
Market share for domestic films: 15.89% (13.32% in 2007)
BOX OFFICE 2009
1. Up – €24,618,756
2. Avatar [trailer] – €22,983,897
3. Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – €21,686,200
4. Agora [trailer]– €20,405,735
5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon – €18,810,154
6. Angels and Demons – €15,605,231
7. 2012 – €14,408,233
8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince [trailer] – €13,971,647
9. Gran Torino – €12,777,134
10. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – €12,193,845