'The Impossible' Lands Spanish Award for Top Grossing Film Abroad

Summit Entertainment
"The Impossible"

New figures show Spanish films gaining ground in the international market, while losing box office earnings at home.

MADRID -- Juan Antonio Bayona's The Impossible, a co-production between Spain's Telecinco Cinema and Apaches Entertainment, was the highest-grossing film outside Spain in 2012, taking €89 million ($119 million) in its international box office to date. Spain saw overall film export sales rise to €150.5 million ($201 million) in 2012 with 25 million moviegoers.

Impossible producers Belen Atienza, Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Ghislain Barrois and Alvaro Augustin picked up the 2013 Fapae-Rentrak Best Selling Film Abroad award at a ceremony at the Madrid de Cine Spanish Film Screenings, where Fapae Spanish Producers Co-Federation president Pedro Perez announced 2012 export and box office figures that clearly demonstrate an industry flailing amidst unchallenged piracy, a worldwide drop in theater attendance and increased ticket prices due to a sales tax hike.

Mexico ($23.7 million) Italy ($22.9 million) and the U.S. ($21.9 million) exhibited the largest number of Spanish titles, with the number of Spain's titles exhibited worldwide growing 28.2 percent. Some 14,200 copies were exhibited, a record number that Perez highlighted as releasing with "sufficient copies" to make a splash.

"That means that of the total earnings for Spanish films released in 2012, 57.8 percent come from box office in international markets, while only 42.2 percent comes from the domestic box office," Perez said.

Indeed, the Spanish industry earned 36.8 percent more abroad than it did from its domestic market, where Spanish films account for a noteworthy 17.9 percent of the box office as of June 9 of this year, compared to 11.54 percent from the same period last year.

As ironic timing would dictate, the figures glaringly contrast with this past weekend's dreary box office figures that set a new low in theater attendance in Spain over a weekend -- the sixth such weekend in 2013, just 347,000 tickets were sold -- a third less than the previous worst weekend ever, which was just one month ago.

Spanish films sold 13.5 million tickets in Spain in 2012, compared to 27 million in 2011 and 31 million in 2010.

Rentrak's Arturo Guillen, who presented the figures, said that the downward trend didn't affect only Spanish titles, but Hollywood features as well failing to break the one million tickets sold threshold in an opening weekend.

Jose Antonio Felez, president of the Spanish Association of Cinema, told journalists that the various factors affecting movie attendance -- piracy, elevated prices (average of €6.8 or $9.10/ticket) and worldwide decline -- were all the more dramatic in Spain given that in 2001 it ranked as one of the top three movie-going territories in Europe, along with the U.K. and Iceland.

"Because of this, a tremendous effort is being made by producers to go abroad," Felez said. "A huge effort is being made to find the international markets."

But the plunge in movie attendance is increasingly affecting producers' desire to take the step to greenlight projects.

Thus far in June, 43 films have started shooting in Spain, a 26 percent drop from the 58 from the same time period in 2012 -- which was in turn a 41 percent drop from 2011. Likewise the average budget has dropped from €3 million ($4 million) in 2010 to €1.8 million ($2.4 million) in 2013, according to figures cited by Felez.

The mood following the presentation was best summed up by Atienza as she picked up the award, "We have to get the films to go abroad, so that the people don't have to."