Spain’s cinemas close to protest pic quotas

Movie fans had to look elsewhere for entertainment Monday when dozens of theaters closed to protest a government decree restricting popular U.S. films.

The decree, issued Thursday, followed last week’s conclusion of world trade talks that at European Community insistence did not lower barriers to imports of movies and television shows.

Members of the trading bloc, in particular France, argued that restrictions should remain on movies from Hollywood and elsewhere to protect domestic filmmakers and the cultures of the 12 EC member nations.

Jose Antonio Rodriguez Vispo, a spokesman for Spain’s Federation of Cinema Exhibitors and Distributors, said the 24-hour shutdown was being observed by a majority of theaters in the Madrid and southern Andalucia regions. He said he did not know about other parts of Spain.

Exhib ratios

The federation urged the strike to protest a decree that would require theaters in towns of 125,000 or more people to show one day of EC-produced films for every two days of non-EC films. Theaters in less populous areas would have to keep a ratio of 1-to-3.

According to the Culture Ministry, U.S. movies now account for 77% of all films shown in Spain’s 1,800 registered theaters. That compared to 9% for Spanish pix and 14% for films from other EC nations.

The Academy for Cinematic Arts & Sciences, which reps more than 500 Spanish movie producers, directors and other professionals, opposed the theater strike.

Punishment possible

Under the decree, theaters would face fines up to $ 75,000 and closure for up to six months for violating the ratio.

The decree, to be presented for parliamentary ratification today, will take effect immediately unless deputies vote to debate it and possibly consider amendments.

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