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Torrente saves the day... again

Fourth installment of Spanish film franchise may top 2011 box office takings

Once again, the Torrente craze has saved Spanish cinema. Although box office figures released on Tuesday are still provisional, everything suggests that Torrente 4: lethal crisis, part four in the humorous saga about a blundering cop - in a similar vein as The Naked Gun franchise - made 19.6 million euros at the box office this year. Part of that is thanks to the enduring appeal of the series from writer, producer, director and star Santiago Segura, but also because of Torrente 4's release in 3D, a format for which moviegoers are willing to pay a premium.

What this means is that Torrente 4: lethal crisis could become not just the most-watched Spanish feature-length film of the year (there is no question about that), but could also beat out Breaking Dawn Part 1, of the Twilight saga, as the most-watched movie of the year in Spain, period. Up until Tuesday, the vampire flick had raked in takings of 19.49 million euros, but it is very unlikely that in just three-and-a-half days it will manage to add another 100,000 euros, according to sources at Rentrak Spain, the company that audits box office receipts in the country.

Not even The Adventures of Tintin has been able to match the success of the bloodsucking teens or the bungling Spanish police detective: Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's hit movie grossed a "measly" 18 million euros at Spanish movie theaters up until December 27.

And so the national film industry has received an unexpected surprise: finally, a Spanish movie could be the highest-grossing production of the year. It is the sort of thing that happens regularly in other countries, such as France, but it would be a watershed moment in a nation where US-made films routinely top the charts.

Right behind Torrente 4 on the list of highest-grossing Spanish movies were Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (which was co-produced by the Spanish company Mediapro), bringing in 7.9 million euros; Fuga de cerebros 2, directed by Carlos Therón and starring David Hasselhoff, which is still being shown and has so far taken more than 4.8 million euros; and Pedro Almodóvar's The Skin I Live In, coming in at 4.59 million euros. These preliminary figures, released by Rentrak Spain, will not be definitive until mid-January, the company said.

In broad terms, Spanish audiences responded positively to Spanish directors' filmmaking efforts in genres such as thrillers and comedies, gauging by the good box office performance of movies such as No habrá paz para los malvados, by Enrique Urbizu; Cousins, by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, or Sleep Tight, by Jaume Balagueró, all of which grossed over three million euros.

Overall, 2011 has been a good year for the Spanish film industry from a commercial standpoint, and its market share, which now stands at 15.3 percent, is three points higher than the figure recorded in 2010, which will be remembered as a disastrous year. Notwithstanding the provisional nature of the available numbers, it would seem like Spanish movies this year jointly grossed nearly 95.7 million euros, a rise from last year's 80 million, although still short of the 104 million euros made in 2009. In 2010, the highest-grossing movie was Toy Story 3 at 24.2 million euros, while the best-performing Spanish production was Three Steps Above Heaven, based on the novel Tre metri sopra il cielo by Italian writer Federico Moccia, which made 8.5 million euros and did not even make the top 10 list.

That's as far as Spanish cinema is concerned. When it comes to movie-going in Spain, however, the story is different. If 2010 saw a total of 99 million movie tickets sold, for revenues of 655 million euros (representing an 11-percent audience drop and a two percent intake fall from the previous year), this year the number of spectators will be slightly upwards of 95 million, proving that the movie market continues to dwindle in Spain, contrary to what is happening elsewhere in Europe. It would seem that movie piracy continues to stifle the sector, a concern about which the industry repeatedly voices complaints.

Santiago Segura as bumbling cop Torrente, in the fourth film of the hugely popular Spanish franchise.
Santiago Segura as bumbling cop Torrente, in the fourth film of the hugely popular Spanish franchise.
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