Spain of Paramount value

New office, production deal with Gomez kicks off regional venture

Paramount Pictures International is ramping up its overseas activities with the launch of a Spanish operation and 12-film 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 stand-alone distribution outfits in key territories worldwide in the wake of its split from UIP two years ago. A similar operation will be set up in Germany in January.

The 12 handpicked titles from Gomez are evenly split between U.S. pickups and 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 F***ing," "She Found Me" and "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."

PPI's Spanish operation, which will be up and running in July, will be headed by former Paramount Home Entertainment marketing chief in Madrid Pierre Auger, PPI president Andrew Cripps said.

Cripps said the deal with Gomez was central to the company's ambitions, adding that PPI has sat down with Gomez and his team to choose the films that the company 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 Spain office follows the carve-up of UIP's distribution network, in which the two U.S. majors split key European territories after 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 said.

The local Paramount 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 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 credits including "Belle Epoque," "The Dancer Upstairs" and "The Common Wealth." A major figure on the Spanish scene, he recently jumped on the 3-D bandwagon with a €40 million animated musical called "Genies" that 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." (partialdiff)