Spanish exhibs seek regs on distribs

MADRID — Targeting the Hollywood majors, Spanish exhibitors federation FECE has petitioned Spain’s government to cap distributors’ rentals at 48% of total B.O. and to regulate release windows, limiting their creeping contraction in Spain.

Current distrib rentals — their B.O. cut — average 54%-55% of pics’ total take, according to FECE; other sources peg the figure at slightly less.

Spanish film rentals remain the highest of Europe’s big five at north of 50%, compared with distributor cuts of 45% in Italy and the U.K. and 49% in Germany and France, according to Dodona Research.

The theatrical-to-homevid window in Spain is established by distributors’ commercial practice, running at some three months for the majors, said FECE general manager Rafael Alvero. The window for subsidized Spanish films is set at four months.

The requests for caps on distrib cuts and regulated release windows form part of a wishlist sent by FECE to Spain’s Ministry of Culture.

Spanish exhibs hope their demands — which include a call for subsidies, credit and fiscal incentives for exhibition and the abolition of Spain’s exhibition quota — will be rolled into a new umbrella Spanish Film Law. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero’s government says it will pass the legislation before its term of office runs out in 2008.

As a lobby, FECE is throwing a lot against the wall, hoping something will stick.

“The basic problem in Spain is that it’s very overscreened,” said Dodona managing director Karsten Grummitt. Tickets sold per screen plunged from 38,942 in 2001 to 29,005 last year.

Spanish exhibs are looking for a break. FECE’s onslaught on the U.S. studios follows a May decision by Spanish competition authorities to fine the majors’ Spanish sub-branches E12 million ($15 million) for cartel price-fixing.

In June, three top exhibitors boycotted “Scary Movie 4″ in Spain, wrestling what are believed to be merely minimum concessions from Disney.

To date, the Ministry of Culture has pointedly failed to intervene in distributor-exhibitor faceoffs — hence, in part, Wednesday’s hardball wishlist from FECE.

The principle of Spain’s new Film Law is that it will be passed through industry consensus, embracing not only the production sector but the distribution and exhibition sectors as well. If FECE succeeds in winning any concessions, it could hurt the U.S. majors in Spain.

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