When culture-clashing works, it’s “gold,” an executive tells me. And that’s no joke. But while Europe has seen a string of local-language successes in the genre, none has recently gotten a U.S. remake, despite Hollywood’s fondness for mining other countries’ hits. The Spanish Affairs movies, although wildly successful at home, are likely to be no different.
Following last year’s record-breaking comedy Ocho Apellidos Vascos (Spanish Affairs), the sequel this weekend set new milestones for a film in Spain. Ocho Apellidos Catalanes (Spanish Affairs 2) released to huge estimated numbers, then came in even bigger when all was tallied on Monday. Universal, which had the first film in Spain, is also releasing SP2 (see trailer below), a continued signal of how the studios make smart bets on local fare.
Reteaming director Emilio Martínez Lázaro with stars Clara Lago and Dani Rovira, SP2 grossed $8.6M this frame at 402 dates; up from an estimated $7.4M on Sunday. The weekend grew on a daily basis, reaching 1.186M admissions. That makes the bow the biggest opening of 2015 in the territory — and whips the previous record set by Universal’s own Fifty Shades Of Grey.
The first film in the series didn’t really travel, but made $77.5M in Spain to become the biggest local film of all time, and quickly lined up a sequel. I understand there are no plans to set a U.S. remake. But these culture-clash pics tend to lend themselves better to Europe. France’s Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’Tis (Welcome To The Sticks) sold over 20M tickets at home alone and was a huge cross-EU border smash. Its Italian iterations, Welcome To The South and Welcome To The North, were huge local earners in 2010 and 2012. However, it was also optioned by Warner Bros for Will Smith’s Overbrook in 2008, and languished in development for years.
Some suggest that the concept of culture-clashing doesn’t really necessitate remake rights. But they agree that regional differences in Europe are more marked than in the U.S., so finding a setting for fish-out-of-water laughs that are based on cultural quirks is a difficult task. An exec says, “America has a more homogenous culture… There’s no real north/south divide anymore,” something that is often the subject of European comedies. Welcome To The Sticks focused on a postal worker who is banished from the south and lands in the north of France, for example. But, “people from Boston aren’t a lot different from people from Georgia. There are almost no stereotypes anymore. I mean, everyone watches Duck Dynasty whether you live in Boston or elsewhere,” the exec continues. Conversely, much of Europe was “built on a bunch of kingdoms. America wasn’t, there’s just not enough cultural differences.”
Spanish Affairs told the story of rigidly Andalusian stud Rafa who falls for Basque woman Amaia and plays the part of a local to win her over. The comedy had particular resonance given the historical strife between the Basque country and the rest of Spain. After decades of violence, the Basque separatist movement, ETA, announced a cessation of its armed activity in 2011, and by last year, enough time had passed for locals to be OK with laughing at a film that used the cultural divide as a comedic device.
Spanish Affairs 2 sees Amaia now in love with a man from Catalonia after having broken up with Rafa. Her father puts aside all of his differences to venture across the Basque border for Seville to convince Rafa he must travel to Catalonia to rescue Amaia at any cost.
There has been an increasing independence movement on the part of Catalonia (made up of the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona) which has gained traction in recent months. The rivalry, and sometimes downright distaste for one another, between Castillian Spain and Catalonia, has existed for years but locals are finding something to laugh about with SP2.
Box office is crossing internal borders. The central region which includes Madrid has been very strong, but Catalonia is strongest in per-screen and per-site numbers. The biggest site of the weekend was Kinepois Powuelo in Madrid, while five Catalan cinemas were within the Top 10 for biggest grossing film.
What’s more, in a record that will be close to soccer fans’ hearts, SP2 scored the biggest weekend and biggest Sunday ever during which the Classico match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona has been played. Barcelona, for the record, trounced Real, 4-0.
In other benchmarks, SP2 is the 2nd best all-time opening for a Spanish film in terms of ticket sales after 2012’s The Impossible (which Warner Bros released); and the 3rd best start ever for a Spanish release after The Impossible and franchise hit Torrente 4 (also WB).
Spanish Affairs 2 faces competition from Mockingjay 2 this coming week but is expected to have legs as the success of the first film contines to rub off on this new chapter in which the locals find a very recognizable story.
Here’s the Spanish Affairs 2 trailer (no subtitles):