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Antoni Llorens, producer of Pedro Almodovar’s landmark 1988 film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and a longtime independent distributor in Spain, died over the weekend in Barcelona. He was 76. The cause of death was not revealed.
The charismatic founder and CEO of Lauren Films, Llorens, with a knack for anticipating trends, was arguably the Spanish film industry’s most international player in the 1980s and ‘90s. Llorens produced 15 films, including the Oscar-nominated Women, which put Almodovar on the international radar, and distributed up to 104 titles a year, including Pulp Fiction, Cinema Paradiso, Terminator and all the Woody Allen titles.
Founded in 1980, Lauren posted some €100 million in sales by 2002, owned 195 screens and sat as Spain’s leading independent distributor, thanks largely to an exclusive accord with Miramax. But the company’s distribution was not limited to theaters.
In 1990, Lauren signed a deal with Spanish pubcaster RTVE, the first of its kind, giving the broadcaster access to Lauren’s catalog. That pioneering spirit carried over to video. Lauren Video Hogar held 15 percent of the market in the ‘90s. The group also forged into the then-blossoming DVD market, being the first to come out with the new format in Spain and chiseling out a respectable 80 percent of the market for Spanish distributors.
Lauren was ahead of its time in Spain when it began aggressively marketing its films. It was known to invest disproportionately for the market to promote its films in Spain at a time when distributors used pocket change for marketing campaigns. For The Blair Witch Project (1999), Lauren infused the marketing campaign with $1 million, and the film reaped $2.6 million in the first four days.
Hailing from Spain’s northeastern Catalan region, Llorens was proud of his Catalan identity and spearheaded the regional channel CAT 4 TV. He also won the Catalan region’s Film Award in 1997 for “his continuous effort to promote the film industry and create a network of theaters in [Spain’s northeastern region] Catalonia and the distribution of Catalan films and films dubbed into Catalan.”
With the economic crisis in the 2000s and the rise of piracy, Lauren Films was forced into deep debt and ultimately bankruptcy.
The news of Llorens’ death sent shock waves throughout the Spanish film industry.
“Antoni Llorens has died,” A Monster Calls director Juan Antonio Bayona posted on Twitter. “His distributor Lauren Films brought so many independent films to the top spots at the box office. RIP.”
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