Filmax Celebrates 70 Years as Indie

Founded in 1953, bought by Julio Fernández in 1987 and now run by his brother Carlos Fernandez and daughter Laura Fernández, Filmax is one of its biggest true-blue independent studios in Spain, involved in film and TV pro- duction, and movie distribution, international film and TV sales and exhibition.

Founded in 1953, bought by Julio Fernández in 1987 and now run by his brother Carlos Fernandez and daughter Laura Fernández, Filmax is one of its biggest true-blue independent studios in Spain, involved in film and TV production, and movie distribution, international film and TV sales and exhibition.

How it got there is another question. “At Filmax, we’ve always bet on creative talent. In Spain, there’s always been creative talents that have revolutionized its sector: Architects, artists and designers,” says Laura Fernández, a Filmax executive producer. “Filmax has known how to find talent in all parts of film production: Composers, screenwriters, DPs, casting, VFX and directors.”

Jaume Balagueró’s “Nameless” gave Filmax its first experience of fulsome international pre-sales at 1999’s Mifed, helping to usher in a golden age of Spanish auteur genre that resonates to this day.

A director on “Polseres Vermelles,” the original Catalan version of “The Red Band Society” and Filmax’s biggest TV fiction format hit, Pau Freixas has gone on to showrun most of the company’s biggest TV series, such as 2017’s “I Know Who You Are,” a crime thriller with a premium edge made for Mediaset España.

Another key, Filmax president Carlos Fernández says, has been “diversification in projects and territories.”

The company Julio Fernández bought was a distribution house, a Paramount library movie distributor in the 1960s. Under him, Filmax quickly moved from home video and TV sales into theatrical distribution, buoyed by the early results on “The Fourth Consul,” and then from 2000 into full-force film production with the Fantastic Factory, partnering with Brian Yuzna. A bold attempt to replicate the shlock and arch awareness of 1985’s “Re-Animator” in movies made in English in Spain mixing international and Spanish actors, it yielded moments of genuine horror, such as Stuart Gordon’s “Dagon,”

Fernández then launched Filmax Animation, based out of his native Galicia, resulting in 2004’s “El Cid: The Legend” and 2006’s “The Hairy Tooth Fairy,” both animated picture Goya winners. Filmax Television was another addition.

In 2001, Filmax opened the 15-plex Cines Gran Vía Filmax in Barcelona, the only Spanish multiplex with three 4DX theaters. “Our hallmark down the years has been to shape a business strategy where we’re present in all the process of a work’s creation, from idea development, through production, distribution to exhibition, without forgetting international sales,” says Carlos Fernández.

“Our DNA is to offer a full service to our audiovisual projects,” Laura Fernández adds.

Some of Filmax’s biggest successes had come from bringing the world to Spain to then re-export abroad, such as with Brad Anderson and an emaciated Christian Bale on “The Machinist,” which has achieved cult status.

Filmax’s Spanish projects  – such as 2007’s [“REC”], from Balagueró and Paco Plaza, a theatrical chart topper in France, sold worldwide, generating a U.S. remake, “Quarantine” – have always been made with one eye on international. “Our projects have Spanish roots, but are for the whole world,” says Carlos Fernández.

Once known for its genre and animation, Filmax has diversified in film types. Its Cannes slate, for example, features “The Chapel,” the second feature from “Piggy” director Carlota Pereda, and “Co-Husbands,” the sophomore outing of “The Innocence” director Lucia Alemany, which is a broad audience comedy.

“A Filmax decalog would always take in a broad vision of business, relations, betting on news talent and finding stories that enamour, whether commercial or auteurist,”  Laura Fernández says.

Filmax’s 70th anniversary celebrations, she adds, will climax with a party at September’s San Sebastián Festival, “to celebrate life, cinema and great stories.

Filmax Timeline, 1953-2023

1953

Filmax is launched, embarking on a journey to become one of Spain’s top independent studios. It began life distributing Hollywood movies starting well with John Huston’s “Moulin Rouge.”

1956

Filmax brought “War and Peace,” by King Vidor to Spain.
1961

Another acquisition: Howard Hawks “Hatari,” with John Wayne playing “a role with which he is identified; the good-natured, but hard-drinking, hot-tempered, big Irishman who ‘thinks women are trouble’ in a man’s world.” Variety in said in its review at the time.
1965

Filmax acquired Madrid’s Bengala Films and distributed multiple titles for Paramount and iconic European auteurs, such as Jean-Luc Godard’s“Pierrot le Fou.”
1968

Filmax abandons its partnership with Paramount, embarking on boundary-pushing European films, such as German documentary “Helga,” controversial at the time for graphically showing the story of conception through to birth.
1978

Filmax first move into racier fare: “Inés de Villalonga, 1870,” directed by Jesús Balcázar.
1987

Julio Fernández acquires Filmax, setting the stage for an era of growth and innovation in the Spanish film industry.
1999

Filmax sees vibrant international sales on young director Jaume Balagueró’s “Nameless” bringing down the flag on a golden age of Spanish auteur genre.
2000

Filmax launches the Fantastic Factory, partnering with Brian Yuzna, a milestone in Spanish genre production.

Oct: Early success for Fantastic Factory titles: Lionsgate Entertainment acquires all North American rights to four horror pics: Jack Sholder’s “Arachnid”; “Dagon,” from Stuart Gordon; and two titles from Brian Yuzna: “Faust: Love of the Damned” and “Beyond Re-Animator.”
2001

Filmax acquires video and DVD rights for nearly 100 titles from The Rank Film Library for distribution in Spain, Latin America and Portugal. The titles included classics such as “The Thirty Nine Steps,” “Blithe Spirit,” and “Brief Encounter.”

The company opened the multiplex Cines Gran Vía Filmax in Barcelona, the only Spanish multiplex which now has three 4DX theaters.
March: Filmax Animation is established, based out of Julio Fernández’s native Galicia, confirming its animation ambitions. The operation is split into three divisions — production services, production and distribution.
2004

Filmax Animation sees success with “El Cid: The Legend,”, which goes on to win a Goya award for best animated picture.

Filmax produces Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist,” a cult classic starring Christian Bale, described by Variety’s Todd McCarthy as “an intense, precision-controlled psychological mystery.”
Feb: Paramount Classics takes U,S., U.K., South Africa, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand rights to the pic.
2006

The company secures  another Goya award for best animated picture with Juan Pablo Buscarini’s “The Hairy Tooth Fairy.”
2007

Filmax achieves international success with “[REC],” from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, which tops charts in France and generates a U.S. remake, “Quarantine.”
2009

Filmax releases “[REC] 2,” a sequel to the original horror film that continues its predecessor’s success and strengthens Filmax’s reputation in the genre film market.

2011

“Red Band Society,” (“Polseres Vermelles,”) is produced by Filmax’s Arca Audiovisual and bows on Catalan pubcaster Televisió de Catalunya. It marks the birth of what would become one of Spain’s most popular fiction formats.
2012

Filmax continues to build on the success of “[REC],” with the release of “[REC] 3: Genesis.”
2014

Sitges opens with Filmax release “[REC] 4: Apocalypse,” the final instalment in the “[REC]” series.
2017

Filmax hits a high note in TV fiction format with “I Know Who You Are,” a crime thriller made for Mediaset España, showrun by Pau Freixas. It was highlighted by The Wit at MipTV as the highest-rating TV fiction of 2017.
2020

Filmax releases David Victori’s “Cross the Line,” maintaining its tradition of producing high-quality genre films with international appeal.
2021
Oct: “Mediterráneo: The Law of the Sea,”  is picked up by Filmax for international sales. It nabs a slew of nominations and wins Goyas and Gaudis.
2023

Filmax announces Carlota Pereda’s “The Chapel,” the Spanish director’s follow-up to “Piggy.” and Paco León starrer “Co-Husbands,” as part of its Cannes slate, signalling a diversification in film types. The company continues to promote Spanish cinema globally, while also bringing the world to Spain through international co-productions.

Sept: The 70th anniversary will be marked with a party at the San Sebastian Festival.

Timeline compiled by Callum McLennan

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