Movie admissions down 5% in 2002

MADRID — “Spain is dead,” a French sales agent said at last month’s European Rendezvous of French Cinema.

But the news of the demise of local Spanish distribs is somewhat exaggerated — “comatose” would be more apt.

No main Euro distrib sector has been harder hit by the continent’s pay TV crisis than Spain. On Jan. 29, Telefonica and Sogecable greenlit the merger of their digital TV platforms. According to Spanish distribbers, the single platform’s slots will be stacked with studio pics for two to three years to come. Bad news for indie fare.

“Pay TV’s dried up and free TV doesn’t exist for 80% of indie distribution,” says Vertigo’s Andres Martin.

But Spanish distribbers are still buying, if much more cautiously than before. Some reasons why: a need to feed large video ops, cover overheads, renegotiate old deals or service TV output deals.

In 2002, Spanish B.O. was ho-hum. Admissions slumped 5% and total B.O. edged up less than 2% to $669 million.

Despite the struggles, some distribbers may still buy at AFM. “DeAPlaneta is looking for one or two pics in the $30 million-$50 million range,” says head of distribution Adolfo Blanco.

Sogepaq is focusing on handling local fare, while Alta is exploring co-productions, having boarded Eric Rohmer’s next, “Triple Agent,” with Italy’s BIM and France’s Rezo Films.

There may be one or two sunny spells. New distribs — such as pan-Euro outfit Entera — look set to launch in Spain.

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