Cannes: Spain and Italy Adjust to Economic Crisis

Cannes Generic Art Theater - H 2013
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Cannes Generic Art Theater - H 2013

Amid economic challenges and box office declines, two countries that once lived large on the Croisette now attend Cannes on a shoestring.

Southern Europe continues to face economic challenges, which have affected the film-market presence and activity of buyers and sellers from traditional cinema powerhouses Spain and Italy.

Box-office revenue declined 8?percent in Italy and 6.5?percent in Spain last year, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory. The first quarter showed a further 7?percent drop in Spain and 6.8?percent decline in Italy.

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The crisis is expected to again cast a shadow over Cannes. At the American Film Market in November, major distributors from Italy struck zero deals, and Spanish acquisitions were rare.

Film buyers in other countries may help cover some of the money shortfall from the South, some say. “The prices for Germany are going up. in some cases you have sellers asking for up to 20 percent of the budget,” says Stephan Giger, COO of Swiss distributor Ascot Elite, which also buys for the German market.

Cannes remains a key event for industry folks from both countries, with their turnout at the Marche not affected as much as smaller markets.

About 230 attendees from 120 Spanish companies will pass through the stand. Catalan Films, the regional promotional platform for films from Spain's Northeastern territory, comes with a healthy dose of activity. Some 60 companies from Catalonia are scheduled to attend.

Still, Spaniards are expected to be a more subdued batch this year, with no parties, cocktails or celebratory Iberian ham aperitivos served at the Cinema in Spain stand at the? market.

“The crisis affects the corporate level of activity. But it also affects the lineup that Spanish companies can offer,” says Geraldine Gonard, COO of Imagina International Sales. “Spanish companies are presenting more and more non-Spanish titles” because fewer homegrown productions manage to pull together the necessary ?financing.

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Overall, there are 24 Spanish titles scheduled to screen at the market, including Miguel Alcantud's Diamantes Negras, which won the audience award at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival. Also screening: the Ricardo Darin-starrer Thesis on a Homicide and Daniel Calporsoro's Combustion.

There used to be 100-150 Spanish titles per year, with 10 films for international audiences, but "now there just aren't that many titles," she said. "So Spanish companies are bringing non-Spanish titles."

Gonard's company, for example, is bringing the English-language romantic dramedy Day of the Flowers to Cannes.

Since there aren’t any ex-Italian colonies that speak English, Italian companies can’t quite copy Spain’s trick.

The two biggest buyers in Italy, traditionally, are public broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset. Last year, because of the Southern crisis, both cut back dramatically on acquisitions, a trend that will continue this year, according to insiders.

There has, however, already been at least one Cannes-related Italian acquisition of a high-profile project. RAI bought the Italian rights to Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur. Financial terms weren't undisclosed.
More than 20 Italian films are listed as being shopped at the Marche this year. Industry watchers said that one main impact of the crisis on Italian market attendees is that there may also be more Italian productions being shopped at the concept or financing stage than in past years.

“This is going to be a scaled-back version of Cannes for Italy,” says one Italian industry insider. “But I think we will do everything we used to do — just less extravagantly. There is money to spend, but less of it. Cannes continues to be a centerpiece? event.”

Georg Szalai contributed to this report.