Admissions plunge during Jan.-May period

MADRID — Total B.O. in Spain plunged 9% during the January-May period to 242 million Euros ($298 million), compared to the first five months of 2004. Admissions fell by an even larger year-on-year margin of 12% to 48 million, per stats from Nielsen EDI, Spain.

Exhibbers attribute the B.O. slump to a lack of depth in A titles, spiraling online piracy and early spring sun.

“The drops are due to a lack of product, but June, with three potential blockbusters, should claw back some of the loss,” said Jose Manuel Pimienta, managing director of Nielsen EDI, Spain.

Even so, the figures will set alarm bells ringing in Spain’s distribution and exhibition sectors.

At the moment, Hollywood studios cannot look to a strengthening Euro to spruce up so-so B.O. returns in Spain.

Squeezing exhibs’ margins, average yearly takings per screen in Spain have tumbled from 38,942 admissions in 2001 to 32,782 in 2004 as cinema construction has outpaced stop-start B.O. growth.

A further slump in 2005 would punish exhibition circuits significantly.

But the chances of a turnaround in Spain B.O. fortunes over the remainder of 2005 do not look very promising. June sees the Spanish bows of “Batman Begins” and “Madagascar” (both June 17) and “The War of the Worlds” (June 29).

With only two big-hitters released in June 2004 (“The Day After Tomorrow” and “Harry Potter 3″), Spain could reasonably be expected to make up maybe half its $30.5 million first five month gap in B.O. returns.

But there are no surefire heavyweights in July to counter July 2004′s “Shrek 2,” the year’s top grosser in Spain, and “Spider-Man 2.” So Spain could head into mid-summer very hard put to match 2004′s final full-year haul of $837.9 million.

Spanish B.O. already dropped in 2002 and again in 2003. A further downturn in 2005 would suggest long-term problems in Spanish exhibition rather than temporary slump.

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