Exhibs Add Heat To Spain’s Hot Time

During the course of 1990, Spain consolidated its position as the sixth biggest market for Yank product, and 1991 promises to follow the same tack.

A key part of the buoyant scene in Spain has been the expansion of the exhibition sector. Though the total number of hardtops remained stable at around 1,600, the number of screens was greatly increased last year in Spain’s major cities.

Dozens of oldtime, large sites were converted into modern multiplexes; a hefty amount of theater construction also accompanied the opening of new shopping centers, usually on the outskirts of cities.

With a $5-plus ante at firstrun wickets and b.o. revenue of about $225 million last year, there’s plenty of interest in the exhib sector. Part of the country’s largest circuit, Cinesa, was purchased at the end of last year by London-based UCI, a banner controlled by Yank majors. Though UCI holds a minority interest in the 40-screen Cinesa, it plans to double the number of screens by 1992, according to its local manager, Alfredo Matas.

The most recent hardtops to bow were the new three-screen Renoir 2 in Madrid, for art fare, run by Alta Films’ Enrique Gonzalez Macho (who also opened a refurbished cinema in Moscow, partnered with Sovexport); also bowing was a new triplex in Barcelona called the Lauren, owned by Lauren Films’ Antonio Llorens, who also runs various hardtops in Madrid.

Dozens of other modern theaters were opened over the past year in Barcelona, Madrid and major provincial cities. Accompanying the growth has been the Americanization of sites via the installation of popcorn and Coke counters (no more can you order coffee and brandy in these cinemas) and a streamlining of screening times. Supplanting the traditional two and three shows a day with reserved tickets, more and more exhibs are now running continuous screenings with admission tickets good for any seat in the house.

The majors’ programming clout was appreciably increased over the past year when UIP (Paramount and Universal) inked deals with two of Spain’s largest indie distribs, Iberoamericana and Araba, to release films bought by these banners. The majors release not only Yank and international films, but also the bulk of Spanish films.

Exhibs are dependent on the majors for obtaining prime films, and even for fulfilling quota that requires them to program one day of Spanish or EC films for every three days of non-EC fare.

Attendance in the first eight months of 1990 totaled 44.4 million, almost matching that of the same period in 1989, which was heartening to exhibs in view of competition from tv and homevid.

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