TV market consolidation could hurt

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SPAIN

Times remain bittersweet for Spain’s indie distributors. After four years of decline, Spain’s 2009 B.O. delivered an all-time record of €675 million ($910.3 million), a 9% boost.

Movies handled by indies grossed $261.2 million, 18% up from 2008, bettering U.S. studios pics’ increase (5%).

A Spanish movie B.O. boom and the country’s growing digital 3D screen count all drove business.

The positive trend continued into the first quarter, in which B.O. climbed 18% and ticket sales increased 9%, powered by “Avatar,” reports Arturo Guillen, general manager, Rentrak EDI Spain.

Indie distributors’ biggest worry is the consolidation of Spain’s TV market, with Mediaset’s Telecinco merging with Prisa’s Cuatro, while pubcaster TVE’s ban on ads is reducing its international acquisitions budget.

These TV market moves could reduce prices paid for films’ TV rights. Meanwhile, TV ad prices, crucial for mainstream distributors, rose 25% through March.

Unauthorized Internet movie downloads were behind the cause of 2009’s dramatic 34% drop in DVD sales.

“Given the DVD market fall, we are betting on more mainstream films,” says Jorge Vazquez, general manager at Aurum Producciones, Spain’s top indie distributor.

Local artpic distributors are pre-buying pics, often with crossover potential. Some indies are downscaling distribution activities (Zeta/On Pictures), while newer players are carving out market niches, such as powerful DVD company Emon and Adolfo Blanco’s arthouse A Contracorriente.

Total 2009 box office: $910.3 million

Total 2009 releases: 398

Top 2009 indie film: “New Moon,” $26.6 million

Top 2010 indie pickups:

• “Wuthering Heights,” Alta Classics

• “The Crazies,” Emon

• “Splice,” Vertice Cine

• “Riddick 3,” Aurum Producciones

• “Heartbreaker,” A Contracorriente

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