Understanding how a Spanish film can turn a profit from its national earnings alone seems an impossible task. Even with a success such as Daniel Sánchez Arévalo’s Family United, which took over three million euros in Spain, the figures don’t add up.
For a Hollywood superproduction to break even, they say it needs to earn double its budget. But there is no such formula for a Spanish feature. You need “a different suit for each film,” says José Antonio Félez, the producer of Family United, and have to wait “three or four years” to see any profit. Félez forked out four million euros to make Family United: three for the production and one on publicity.
The government subsidy is the only certain source of income, because it offers a maximum 1.5 million euros and is awarded on the basis of the film fulfilling a series of budget and box-office requirements. “If you fulfill them, you get it,” Félez explains. “But you have to wait a period of around two years to receive it.” If these subsidies ended, in his view, it would be “impossible to make films.”
The box-office earnings get carved up several times before they reach the pocket of the film’s financer. The first cut is 21 percent VAT, which would leave 2,640,000 euros out of Family United’s takings of three million. This is then divided up again, with half (1.3 million) going to the exhibitor and the other half shared between the producer and the distributor — whose cut in this case is 260,000. That leaves 1,040,000, which Félez says “goes on publicity.” There is still three million euros to pay.
The final source of income is TV rights. “You sometimes negotiate presales with open and private channels. Sometimes with more than one,” Félez says. But you have the same problem of having to wait for your money because it is linked to contracts.
What about international sales? “For the majority, it is a bonus. [...] In our case it will be around 10 percent of what we take in Spain, around 300,000 euros.” Prizes like the Goyas can also provide a boost — of 100,000 euros in Family United’s case after it was rereleased on the back of 11 Goya nominations. What’s clear is that making movies in Spain is not exactly a money-making business. “Most of the time it is not profitable. You lose more money than you earn,” Félez says.