By contributing blogger Benjamín Harguindey
In an unprecedented turn of events for Argentine cinema, this month’s movie-going Top 5 has been dominated by local productions: the 3D animated family movie Foosball (Metegol), the romantic comedy León’s Heart (Corazón de león), the thriller 7th Floor (Séptimo) and the drama Wakolda, recently nominated on the Oscar shortlist.
Foosball , a 3D animated film directed by Oscar winner Juan José Campanella in a $20 million dollar production, made history from July 18th to 24th by having the best opening week ever enjoyed by a local production, with 700,000 spectators and grossing over $27 million. It is currently on its 11th week at the box office, grossing $78 million with over 2 million spectators. As of its 10th week, exhibitors have resorted to lowering ticket fees to $15 and $10 pesos for 3D and 2D viewing of the movie, respectively – about 75% off the nominal price. This measure increased moviegoers sixfold. By Campanella’s own admission, the movie wouldn’t recoup expenses “even if all 40 million Argentines went to see it twice“, so he’s obviously counting on the film’s international release later this year. The $20 million dollar budget may not be very impressive to, say, Pixar – the movie cost $10 million dollars less than Pixar’s cheapest movie, and ten times less than its most expensive movie ($200 million) – but it remains probably Argentina’s priciest production yet.
León’s Heart, the surprise rom-com hit directed by Marcos Carnevale that premiered August 15th, has since become the movie with the second-best opening week (after Foosball), with over 470,000 spectators and grossing over $16 million. It is currently on its 7th week at the box office, grossing $54 million with over 1.5 million spectators.
7th Floor, the thriller starring Ricardo Darín, premiered September 5th and it’s currently on its 4th week at the box office, with over 790,000 spectators and grossing $27.5 million. Director Patxi Amezcua has been verbal about his concerns at the box office – “If I don’t make it up to a million viewers, people are going to say: the director that made a movie with Ricardo Darín and didn’t make it up to a million viewers”.
Darín’s fame as a box office lucky charm comes from Homicide Thesis (Tesis sobre un homicidio, 2012), a thriller that raked over a million viewers, as well as his latest collaboration with Campanella, The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos, 2009), which got nearly 2.5 million viewers, and for their historical team-ups in Son of the Bride (El hijo de la novia, 2001) and Avellaneda Moon (Luna de Avellaneda, 2004), both of which surpassed one million viewers.
However, the man and his movies have been known to flop, even at the height of his career – Fairy Education (La educación de las hadas, 2007) and Victory Dance (El baile de la victoria, 2010) don’t have 100,000 viewers to rub together, while his more recent hits Carancho (2010), Chinese Take-Away (Un cuento chino, 2011) and Elephant White (Elefante blanco, 2012) didn’t make it to the coveted “million viewers” figure.
Lastly, Wakolda, which premiered September 19th and is on its 2nd week at the box office, has amassed 120,000 spectators and grossed a little over $4 million. The movie was directed by Lucía Puenzo, and while its figures will not be anywhere nearly as impressive as the other movies’, it has arguably gained the most critical acclaim, and will no doubt enjoy more popularity if and when it does make the scene as an Academy Award contender.
While cinema attendance might be in decline in many parts of the world, in Argentina it is rising and new cinemas are being opened. This trend, combined with a more industrial approach to movie-making that puts emphasis on genre and comedies, means that more and more and more Argentines are seeing local movies. Could this be the start of the next golden age of Argentine cinema?