On Wednesday evening, somewhere in Spain, someone walked up to a movie theater box office and bought an eight-euro ticket for The Impossible, by Spanish film director Juan Antonio Bayona. Without knowing it, that someone made history by turning this fast-paced drama into the highest grossing Spanish movie in the country, raking in over 27. 5 million euros and knocking down Alejandro Amenábar's The Others, which had held the record since 2001.
According to figures provided by Rentrak España, a media measurement company, The Impossible had close to four million spectators by Wednesday, the eve of a national holiday. The Others still holds the record of 6.4 million.
The news caught the director and his producer, Belén Atienza, on the west coast of the United States where they were attending a slew of festivals to promote the movie. Bayona thanked "everyone who made this possible."
The record is all the more impressive during these times of crisis when spectator attendance at movie theaters has dropped sharply, and when it seems hard to believe that Avatar, the highest grossing movie ever in Spain, made 74.5 million euros just two years ago.
Bayona, however, is no stranger to success, since he also directed The Orphanage, which is the third highest grossing Spanish movie on a national level. Another factor that helped hoist The Impossible to the top of the charts is the fact that one of its producers is a television station, Telecinco. Parent company Mediaset has been conducting a massive marketing campaign on its seven television channels for quite a while, and continues to do so.
"Nobody has ever died of over-promotion," notes Patricia Marco, an executive at Mediaset España. Ghislain Barrois, CEO of Telecinco Cinema, added that "Bayona is a film junkie who spends 24 hours a day connected to everything that goes on in the industry, and he is tireless when it comes to proposing ideas. He is perfect for doing promotion."
Company executives noted that up to 60 different posters for The Impossible were designed before one was agreed upon. "Our heads were spinning by the end of it," says Barrois. "Also in our favor is the fact that the actors [Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor] are well known," he adds.
Despite the saturation campaign, the "curious thing is that in-house programs keep asking us for more content; even if we slow down, our own colleagues want more," says Patricia Marco. This includes not only interviews with the movie actors, but also with the real-life protagonists of this story about a family caught in Asia during the tsunami of 2004. The story is based on the ordeal of a Spanish family vacationing in Thailand and torn apart by the natural disaster.
Telecinco chiefs say that how well The Impossible ultimately does depends on whether it rains this long weekend, and on competition from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. Could it reach takings of 40 or 50 million euros? As the Spanish film industry has been repeating again and again these last few days, nothing seems impossible for The Impossible.