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It’s no Cannes do for Spain

Spanish buyers, sellers, producers and journalists are all suffering at this year's festival

Gregorio Belinchón
The entrance to the Film Market at the Cannes festival.
The entrance to the Film Market at the Cannes festival.LOIC VENANCE (AFP)

Every Spaniard walking around this year’s Cannes Film Festival is receiving the same comments of support and commiseration. Even the Greeks look happier, according to the rest of the film industry. Not only does Spain have a minuscule presence in the festival’s theaters this year, but a long walk through the Film Market and promotion offices only strengthens the idea that, right now, Spain is an outcast in the golden land of cinema.

Buyers, sellers, producers... all have been affected to a greater or lesser degree by the economic crisis, and in Cannes, the biggest film market in the world, it’s showing. Faced with a barrage of requests, the international film promotion agencies favor journalists from the countries where a movie has already been sold when it comes to granting access to the big stars. The best example is the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis: as it has no Spanish distributor, no Spanish journalist can interview its creators.

Other selection procedures are even more painful. Distributors have to pay the promotion agencies to reserve spots for journalists from their country. This year, some agencies have continued to charge the same high fees for this service as they did in the boom years. This, for example, means that Spanish distributors have had to abandon attempts to get interview time for the Spanish media, despite having already bought the rights to a film.

In the Film Market things are proceeding along similar lines. The disappearance of distributor Alta Films is an undoubted blow, and means there will be less of a choice of independent cinema in Spanish movie theaters. But the greed of international sellers is doing even more damage. According to the European Observatory of Culture, Spanish box office takings fell 6.5 percent in 2012 and seven percent in the first three months of 2013. And you can’t buy films at exorbitant prices if you know you won’t make your money back in the theaters. “I think now, only now, the sellers are beginning to understand that they have to adjust their prices for Spain,” says Igor Ibeas, associate director general of eOne Films Spain, formerly Aurum. “And that if they don’t lower those prices, they will not place their films in our country.”

Only now are sellers beginning to realize they have to adjust their prices for Spain”

At Filmax — which has its own stand at the festival as the producer of horror and fantasy films such as Manuel Carballo’s English-language The Returned and [REC] 4: Apocalipsis — they say things were even worse at the American Film Market in California in November and at the Berlin market in January.

“You don’t have to rush,” notes Miguel Morales, head of acquisitions at Wanda Films. “If there are no interesting films, we won’t buy anything.”

The sales side seems to be going better, however. Alex de la Iglesia’s Witching & Bitching has good presales, says Film Factory’s Vicente Canales, while Juan José Campanella’s animation Foosball has found distribution around the world.

Latido Films’ Silvia Iturbe says it has diversified its product. After entering the Latin American market, it is now also selling Russian and French films. “What’s more, before, a buyer arrived, you negotiated and you signed. Now they show their interest, with luck they sign the presale, but no deal is closed until they get back home and check the data with the financiers in their respective firms. Everything is much more measured; now there are no more impulsive acquisitions.”

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