Paramount to launch Spanish operation

Signs 12-picture deal with A. Zeta banner

CANNES -- Paramount Pictures International is ramping up its overseas activities with the launch of a Spanish operation and a 12-picture theatrical output deal with veteran producer Andres Vicente Gomez and his A. Zeta banner.

The move by the Hollywood major is part of its ongoing initiative to set up standalone distribution outfits in key territories around the globe in the wake of its split from UIP two years ago. A similar operation will be set up in Germany in January 2009.

The 12 handpicked titles from Gomez are split between six U.S. pick-ups and six Spanish productions. First out of the block will be "Manolete," starring Adrien Brody and Penelope Cruz.

Highlights from the U.S. half dozen include "Young People Fucking," "She Found Me" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."

PPI's Spanish operation, which will be up and running this July, will be headed by former Paramount Home Entertainment marketing chief in Madrid Pierre Auger, PPI president Andrew Cripps said. Cripps told THR that the deal with Gomez was central to the company's ambitions. He said that PPI has sat down with Gomez and his team to choose the films PPI could do well with theatrically.

"We are hoping that this relationship becomes a long-term thing," Cripps said. "We're delighted to have this deal in place right before we even open our offices in Spain."

PPI's new office in Spain follows the carve-up of UIP's distribution network, in which the two U.S. majors split key European territories when UIP broke up in 2006.

"This is part of our strategy as we set up international offices. We want to be in business with local filmmakers, and Gomez is one of the best," Cripps explained.

The local Par outfit is expected to get into business with other Spanish producers once the operation is up and running.

A. Zeta signed a distribution pact with Universal in September 2007 to handle video and DVD distribution that won't be immediately affected by the pact with PPI.

Gomez is one of Spain's most established producers, with past credits including "Belle Epoque," "The Dancer Upstairs" and "The Common Wealth."

A major figure on the Spanish scene, Gomez has recently jumped on the 3-D bandwagon, with a 40 million euros animated musical feature called "Genies," which forms part of the PPI theatrical deal.

"Genies" is set up at Gomez's RadioPlus production house, a company he co-owns with Spanish journalist Concha Garcia-Campoy. India's Toonz Animation and Saudi Arabia's Kingdom TV are backing the project.

"I'm getting more interested in animation," Gomez said. "The project was inspired by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah National Gardens."

"Genies" enters the fantasy world of Geniland that encompasses all civilizations, with original versions being produced in English, Spanish and Hindi.