U.S. studios agree to dub pix in Catalan language

After a seven-month stand-off, the Hollywood studios and the new government of Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions, have come to terms over the thorny issue of dubbing studio pics into the Catalan language.

The studios stopped releasing movies in the region in November as a reaction to an article in a new Catalan audiovisual law stipulating that half a major release’s print run must be dubbed or subtitled into the local language — an expensive proposition.

Instead, the biz will revert to the previous position where each studio released two or three movies, mostly family-oriented, in Catalan on 12 to 13 prints.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ will be the first local-lingo release when it opens July 15. “The Smurfs,” “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” plus “Super 8″ or “Happy Feet 2 in 3D” are also due to screen in Catalan.

The political landscape changed after the center-right party Convergencia i Unio won Nov. 28’s Catalan elections, replacing the left-wing coalition.

“We perceive a different sensitivity in the new government: It seemed appropriate to return to the arrangement prior to November, which worked for 12 years,” said Luis Hernandez de Carlos, prexy of Spanish distrib lobby Fedecine, which groups all of Hollywood’s Spanish sub-branches.

This compromise removes the threat hanging over the majors: If one regional government had pushed through linguistics quotas, then other parts — such as the Basque Country and Galicia — may have followed.

For Catalan, the majors’ commitment allows some of the most important films in the world targeting younger audiences to be screened at a significant number of theaters in Catalonia, creating a litmus test for the acceptance of Hollywood blockbuster fare in the local language.

Also, the deal could open the door for the majors to screen films at the Sitges Film Festival, after their notable absence in October.

The Sitges fest (Oct. 6-16) will open with Catalan-language robot film “Eva,” which Paramount Pictures will distribute in Spain.

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