Spanish Films Earn More Abroad than at Home

International revenues from 2011 doubled domestic sales and weighed in at more than twice as much as the previous year.

MADRID - Spanish film export revenues doubled in 2011 to 185 million euros ($235 million), with 30 million ticket sales, according to figures released Wednesday by Spanish Producers Federation (FAPAE) President Pedro Perez.

In fact, Spain earned nearly twice as much abroad last year as at the domestic box office, where it cornered 15 percent of the sales with 93 million euros ($118 million).

"They love us more abroad than at home," Perez said as he announced the figures at the Madrid de Cine Spanish Film Screenings. "We have to sell more abroad, because we run the risk of becoming a marginal industry -- which doesn't fit with the Spanish industry's history."

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Breaking with tradition that sees European countries offer the highest sales figures for Spanish films, the United States and Canada accounted for 50 million euros ($63.4 million) in ticket sales thanks largely to Midnight in Paris, according to figures presented by Rentrak that analyzed 19 representative territories.

Even so, Mexico released 36 Spanish films in 2011, followed by France with 25, Argentina with 24, Brazil with 17 and the U.S. with 16 Spanish productions. Europe accounted for 45 percent of revenues from abroad, followed by the U.S. and Canada with 31.5 percent.

Perez pointed to improved marketing strategies on the part of international distributors along with strong titles as the primary causes behind the jump.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful was released in 39 countries, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris in 33 countries and his You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger in 29 countries and Pedro Almodovar's The Skin I Live In in 26 countries.

In fact, Skin took home the screenings award for Spanish film with the greatest international impact, with 35 million euros ($44 million) earned at the foreign box office.

"Pedro Almodovar's work is key abroad," Perez said. "He is one of the best ambassadors for the Spain brand and he's never abandoned Spanish as his film language."

Almodovar, who is set to start shooting his upcoming Standby Lovers July 9, sent his brother and producer Agustin Almodovar to pick up the award.

"We have financed the upcoming film entirely from international pre-sales," the producer said. "There's an appetite for Spanish cinema abroad. Anyone can make a film in English and then find competition. We need to make good films in Spain without abandoning our identifying values."

Rentrak's Arturo Guillen said first quarter Spanish box office sales were down 18.5 percent in 2011 -- with a slight upturn in April and May that has tempered the figure to 14 percent for the first half of the year -- thanks to the general poor economic situation in Spain, the unusually sunny winter weather and lack of blockbusters.

Organizers of the Madrid de Cine screenings indicated a higher volume of sales. Fernando Gonzalez Molina's sexy I Want You generated good buzz, with an early sale to Carmen Films in Russia announced with a planned 200-copy release. Riding on the back of the director's sleeper Three Steps Above Heaven, Imagina International is in advanced talks for various territories for I Want You.