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B.O. flattens after 14-year growth spurt

Multiplex construction doesn't result in admission expansion

MADRID — B.O. is languishing in Spain. According to Nielsen EDI, total 2003 B.O. through Oct. 2 dropped 0.2% to E436.6 million ($513.6 million) compared to the same period a year earlier. Admissions were down 3.6% to 93.7 million.

For Spain, this looks like more than a blip. The stats point to the end of an era after 14 years of continuous year-on-year admissions growth beginning in 1988. Multiplexing drove that surge. It continues apace: Some 750 new screens will bow in the next two years.

But new construction is merely halting a severe admissions decline rather than powering growth. Per-screen-averages are nosediving, to exhibs’ dismay. “After a strong start to the year, most of the major European territories, particularly Germany and the U.K., have had a poor summer, resulting in a decline in year-on-year admissions,” says Dodona Research’s Katharine Wright.

Spain at least bucked the 2003 summer heatwave B.O. crash: It has a heatwave every summer and is prepared with air-conditioned theaters. Admissions in Spain aren’t off as much as in the U.K. (down 10% in admissions through August), France (underperforming 5.6% through September) or Germany (down 11% through September).

“As European markets mature, exhibitors are ever more reliant on a succession of blockbusters to keep admissions on an upward trend,” Wright says. By that count, despite rampant new construction, Spanish market is now semi-mature. Spain’s B.O. stagnation is basically due to a lack of big hitters, insists Ricardo Gil, UCI marketing director, Spain/Portugal.

“Films have been weak this year,” agrees Willem de Vidts, general business director at Kinepolis Spain. Late-year prospects hardly enthuse, though “The Matrix Revolutions” and “Finding Nemo” may compensate for the lack of a holiday “Harry Potter” pic. Spanish cinema will need holiday toon pics “El Cid” and “The 3 Wise Men” to fire well to equal last year’s B.O. All in all, however, expect so-so 2003 B.O. in Spain.

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