Spanish Films that Will Conquer Theaters and Platforms and Shine at Festivals

Emiliano de Pablos
24 March 2023

Among the contenders to lead the box office is Campeonex, sequel to the 2018 blockbuster Campeones, which grossed €20 million

Films produced in Spain continue to be among the most attractive on the international market. Thanks to their diversity, the past year has seen important successes, in the form of prestigious awards such as the Golden Bear awarded to Alcarrás at the Berlinale, huge popularity on global platforms - From My Window on Netflix - and even generating significant business through the sale of adaptation rights in key regions, such as Campeones in the United States Which titles will follow this path in 2023? 

Thanks to platforms such as Netflix, some titles are released in more than 190 countries simultaneously without being screened in theaters. Others place their fate in the hands of sales agents who will sell them market by market, region by region. There are also those that, with the backing of television operators, aim first for success at the local box office that can be used as a springboard to propel them onto the foreign market. Meanwhile, the more auteur films are focusing on festivals as a way to reach their audiences.

Throughout the year, the billboard will combine works by well-established young filmmakers, others still seeking recognition, and veterans whose films continue to arouse expectation.

Potential local blockbusters
Among the films that are candidates to top the box office is Javier Fesser's Campeonex, the long-awaited sequel to the 2018 blockbuster Campeones, an event film that grossed almost €20 million euros in theaters, also scooping up numerous awards, among them three Goyas, including Best Picture.

Distributed internationally by Latido FilmsCampeones has become one of the most profitable Spanish films in recent years, also in terms of adaptation rights sales, with outstanding deals such as the one that has allowed Focus Features to release its North American version (Champions), directed by Bobby Farrelly and starring Woody Harrelson.

The sequel, Campeonex, once again brings together producer Luis Manso, from Películas Pendelton, and Álvaro Longoria, from Morena Films, with the participation of Movistar Plus and RTVE. It will hit theaters on August 18, distributed by Universal Pictures International Spain.

Another release with great commercial potential is the family comedy Vacaciones de verano, directed by Santiago Segura who alongside Leo Harlem is also one of the stars. Co-written by Segura and Marta González de Vega - who also wrote the screenplays for box-office hits Padre no hay más que uno and A todo tren - Vacaciones de verano is a Bowfinger International Pictures production headed by María Luisa Gutiérrez, which will premiere in theaters on July 7, distributed by Sony Pictures.

The big platforms are also going for occasional releases of some of their major productions in theaters. This could be the case with one of the most anticipated Spanish titles of the year, Juan Antonio Bayona's The Snow Society, a production by Belén Atienza (The Impossible, The Orphanage) and Sandra Hermida (The Impossible, A Monster Comes to See Me) for Netflix.

After the global phenomenon of A través de mi ventana, on June 23 the sequel, A través del mar, a teen drama by writer Ariana Godoy, again directed by Marçal Forés and produced by Adrián Guerra and Núria Valls from the Barcelona-based company Nostromo Pictures arrives on Netflix.

Following its premiere on Netflix in February last year, A través de mi ventana ranked first in the Global Top 10 among the streamer's non-English-language titles, which offers potential access to no less than 231 million paying subscribers in more than 190 countries.

Promising young female directors
2023 is also expected to be a key year for the recognition of the female directors who have burst onto the Spanish film scene in recent years.

After reaping numerous awards at festivals with Cinco lobitos, Alauda Ruiz de Azúa will be releasing Eres tú, a romantic comedy produced by Zeta Studios for Netflix with Álvaro Cervantes as the lead actor.

After Cerdita - one of the recent major sensations in Spanish cinema, including a world premiere at Sundance 2021 - Carlota Pereda will this year be releasing La ermita.

Set in locations in the Basque Country and Navarraa and starring Belén Rueda, the film is a Spanish co-production by Filmax and Bixagu Entertainment and with the participation of Netflix, RTVE and EiTB.

On April 21, Bteam will release 20,000 Species of Bees in Spain, Estíbaliz Urresola's first feature film, one of the debuts that is generating the most interest, produced by Gariza Films and Inicia Films.

In March, the film won three awards at the Malaga Film Festival, including the Golden Biznaga for Best Spanish Film, after Sofía Otero received the Best Actress Award in Berlin, a magnificent launch pad that raises high expectations on the arthouse circuit and beyond. The French agency Luxbox has sold it to Cineworx in Switzerland, Alambique in Portugal and Camera Film in Denmark, and other counties.

Spanish auteur cinema will welcome a new film this year by one of its most outstanding representatives, Manuel Martín Cuenca from Almería, who will premiere El amor de Andrea, produced by La Loma Blanca with LaZona in co-production with Alebrije Cine y Video from Mexico.

Lois Patiño’s new film Samsara, winner of the Special Jury Prize in the Encounters section at the Berlinale, which is being marketed internationally by the Canary Islands agency Bendita Film Sales, will also be in theaters.

The return of Victor Erice
Twenty-one years after the release of El sol del membrillo, Víctor Erice (El Espíritu de la colmena) returns with Cerrar los ojos, a co-production of Pecado Films and Nautilus Films with Pampa Films of Argentina, marketed internationally by the Barcelona-based sales agency Film Factory Entertainment, which has already sealed relevant agreements such as Haut et Court for distribution in France. It will undoubtedly be one of the most sought-after titles on the international festival circuit this year.

Another of the great Spanish classics, Fernando Trueba, will release Haunted Heart an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel in English, starring Matt Dillon and Aida Folch and set in Greece.

Haunted Heart is produced by Caracol TV (Colombia) and Spain's Atlantika Films and Fernando Trueba PC. Bteam Pictures will handle the release in theaters; the Lebanese company Falcon Films has taken on distribution in the Middle East and North Africa.

Also in English, Pedro Almodóvar has shot the medium-length film Strange Way of Life in Almería - a ‘queer western’ in the filmmaker’s own words - produced by El Deseo and starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, which will presumably premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next May.

Meanwhile, Isabel Coixet is working on Un amor, a film adaptation of the novel by Sara Mesa, with a screenplay written with Laura Ferrero, produced by Marisa Fernández Armenteros of Buenapinta Media, together with Sandra Hermida and Belén Atienza of La Perdición Films. The film stars recent Goya Award winner Laia Costa (Cinco lobitos).

During the most recent European Film Market, the film was presented to international buyers by Film Constellation, the production, financing, and sales company based in London and Paris.

Animation is thriving
Undoubtedly one of the most buoyant sectors within the Spanish audiovisual industry is animation, which in its feature film aspect usually ensures attractive box office returns. Last year it was Tadeo Jones, The Emerald Tablet and Mummies, this year Dragonkeeper4 Days Before ChristmasRobot Dreams, and more will be arriving on the scene.

With a budget of €24 million, probably the largest for any Spanish film this year, including real image, there is the Chinese co-production Dragonkeeper, directed by Salvador Simó (Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas) and produced by Telefónica Audiovisual Digital and Atresmedia Cine on the Spanish side. With international sales by SC Films, its release in theaters, through A Contracorriente Films, is scheduled for August 11.

After Pink Parrot Media secured major pre-sales deals including key regions such as the UK and Germany, the buzz around the animated family film Four Days Before Christmas has been growing steadily ahead of its December 15 release in theaters via Filmax. Spanish companies 3Doubles Producciones and Capitán Araña are co-producing together with Canada’s PVP Media, with Steve Majaury and Andrea Sebastián as directors.

Finally, the animated feature debut of filmmaker Pablo Berger (Snow White), the 2D production Robot Dreams set in the 1980s, will be hitting theaters, distributed by Bteam Pictures. The French agency Elle Driver is selling the film on the international market.


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