“Pan’s Labyrinth,” Guillermo Del Toro’s Fascist-set fantasy, broke the box-office record for a Spanish-language film in the United States over the weekend. Propelled by six Academy Award nominations, the film has made an estimated $21.695 million at the U.S. box office, just surpassing 1993’s “Like Water For Chocolate,” which I believe, had been the reigning champion, with $21.665 million. Last November, “Pan’s” distributor Bob Berney predicted as much when we spoke for this indieWIRE article. (In related news, Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver” broke his personal U.S. domestic record, with $10.2 milion; “Talk to Her” made nearly $9.3).
While it’s a milestone for Spanish-language films, which have experienced a boost in the last few years — “The Motorcycle Diaries” ($16.8 million), “Y Tu Mama Tambien” ($13.8) “Maria Full of Grace” ($6.5), “El Crimen del Padre Amaro” ($5.7) — I still contend that the vast majority of foreign-language films are struggling. The foreign-language distribution industry is still operating on a “rich getting richer, poor getting poorer” model. “Pan’s Labyrinth,” it’s no surprise, is succeeding because of its genre elements, which has long been the distinguishing factor separating the subtitled box-office losers from the breakouts.