Faced with bull market, Spain to lower pic prod’n

MADRID – The Spanish government is aiming to put through a series of measures to strengthen film production in Spain. So what else is new?

The departure is that the government would like local movie production levels to go down, not up. And much of the Spanish industry is, cautiously at least, in agreement.

The root of the problem is that the number of films of any nationality opening in Spain spiraled from 345 pics in 1994 to an estimated 420 this year. Simultaneously, energized by new subsidy systems passed in 1994, the number of films produced in Spain has climbed from 44 in ’94 to an estimated 85 for 1996. That’s just too much for many pics to get a theatrical run, according to the government and many local producers.

“Cinemas are not available for 1-1/2 Spanish films per week,” said Francisco Ramos, CEO of production house Aurum Producciones. “And it’s impossible to generate audience awareness for 75 or more Spanish films a year. We’d have to spend three times as much on P&A per film.”

In a series of measures set to become law in January, the government envisages new mechanisms that will make it harder for films to access subsidies, plus the reconversion of some production energies to make TV movies.

Spanish producers are likely to challenge any radical change to subsidy systems that have helped spur a renaissance of local filmmaking.

But many big private players – Andres Vicente Gomez, Sogetel and Aurum – already are contemplating maintaining investment levels but channeling funds into fewer but larger films.

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