Pirates force biz into defense mode


Rampant piracy is walloping Spain’s distribution market.

According to Spain’s Federacion Anti Pirateria (FAP), from June 2005 to June this year, Spaniards illegally downloaded 132 million pics, seven times more than the year earlier.

“The problem’s overwhelming us,” laments Felipe Ortiz, prexy of boutique distrib Tripictures.

When Tripictures released “Blade” in 1998, Ortiz recalls, it sold 40,000 copies in video rentals in a month; today a similar A-title film reaches only 18,000.

Spain’s indie distribs also are concerned about the state of the theatrical market. While Spain’s total B.O. through Sept. 30 grew 8% to x465 million ($590 million), indies’ market share dropped from 32% to 21%.

Another ongoing problem is that pay TV mostly buys large titles from mainstream indie distribution houses. Among free-to-air operators, pubcaster RTVE buys European artpics for cultural channel La 2. Mediaset’s Telecinco and DeAPlaneta’s Antena 3 TV take only select commercial pics.

“Since we don’t sell on to TV, we’re trying to risk less, buy less, make less prebuys than before and see completed films,” says Enrique Gonzalez Kuhn, head of acquisitions of Alta Classics.

The tough Spanish market has registered on sellers’ radars. “Prices have probably dropped 20%,” says Mark Holdom, Eurocine Films head of acquisitions.

Waiting for better days, Spanish indie distribs’ hopes rest on their participation in international co-productions — such as Tripictures’ participation in “Asterix at the Olympic Games” — or sales to new-media markets.

But video-on-demand operators — paradoxically the same providers of broadband Internet for P2P discharges — still have a long way to go to reach the level of prices offered by pay TV in Spain before that sector halted massive purchases of indie product starting in 2003.

Before then, according to one distributor, pay TV anted $1 million for a big title; currently, VOD generates only $20,000 for a distributor on a similar film.

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