Majors grab mucho dinero in Spain

U.S. studios up 18.6% in grosses for the year

MADRID — Moolah for U.S. movies in Spain was the second best ever in 2006, with total B.O grosses for Yank pics coming in at Euros 453 million ($595 million), 18.6% up on 2005.

Only 2004 — $634 million — bettered this.

Tix sold for U.S. movies climbed 12.6% to 86.6 million in 2006, according to definitive 2006 figures published by Spain’s ICAA Film Institute.

U.S. pics’ market share — 71% — was the highest this decade.

But Hollywood’s Spanish distribs won’t be cracking out the rioja quite yet.

2006’s large leaps merely reverse drastic drops in 2005 when Yank B.O. plunged 21%, compared with 2004, to $502 million.

Nearly half the drop in 2005 can be attributed to three WB-financed U.K.-U.S. pics, led by “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” qualifying as U.K. releases.

And, while Hollywood returns to form, Spain’s exhibition market appears to be in notably worse shape than Europe’s other big five territories.

Overall 2006 B.O. in Spain reached $836 million, 0.2% up on 2005, but below 2004 and 2003.

While total admissions increased in France (up 8%), Germany (up 7%) and Italy (up 2%) last year, they dropped 5% in Spain to 122 million, having already plunged 11% in 2005.

U.K. tix sold also fell 5% last year, but off a more modest 4% 2005 decrease.

Analysts blame piracy for Spain’s declining cinemagoing: young Spaniards will flock to the cinema for two to three must-see pics a year. Otherwise, they download the rest.

For Spanish pix, 2006 was a mixed year. Their B.O. gross dropped 8% to $129 million.

But last year saw Spanish companies produce a blockbuster, “Alatriste,” which didn’t depend on its director’s B.O. pull. Seven Spaniards are nominated for Academy Awards, thanks to “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Volver” and shorts “Binta and the Great Idea” and “Eramos pocos.”

Spanish films’ 15.5% market share was just down on 2005’s 16.8%. Local share pales before France’s (up to 45% last year), Italy’s (25%) and Germany’s (26%, in a standout 2006).

But it helps consolidate a long-term share rise for Spanish films from 11.1% for 1990-1999 to 14.8% for 2000-06.

What Spanish cinema now needs, producers insist, is the energizer of tax breaks to take it to the next level.

TOP 10 GROSSING FILMS IN SPAIN, 2006

  1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” $36.6 million

  2. “The Da Vinci Code” $35.1 million

  3. “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown” $25.4 million

  4. “Alatriste” $21.7 million

  5. “Cars” $16.5 million

  6. “Memoirs of a Geisha” $15.5 million

  7. “Volver” $13.2 million

  8. “X-Men: The Last Stand” $12.6 million

  9. “Superman Returns” $12 million

  10. “The Departed” $11.1 million

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