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Spanish B.O. plunges 18% in 1st quarter

Lack of blockbusters hit admissions

MADRID — Battered by crisis, piracy and soft numbers, Spanish box office nosedived a hefty 18.4% to Euros138.7 million ($181.7 million) in the last quarter, January through March, Rentrak confirmed Tuesday.

Admissions plunged 17.7%.

Early 2011, which was blessed by bows from “Tangled” and local behemoth “Torrente 4: Lethal Crisis,” was a tough act to follow.

“80% of the difference between 2011 and 2012 is due to the top five movies,” said Arturo Guillen, recently named VP Rentrak, Europe, Middle East and Africa.

In the first quarter of 2011, five movies grossed more than €9 million ($11.8 million) in Spain. Not one achieved that this year, Guillen added.

Attracting adult urban auds, two of Spain’s three top grossers outperformed expectations: “The Descendents” ($11 million) and French barnstormer “Untouchable” ($8.4 million). Yet, many movies opened weak and suffered short legs.

“The weather’s been better than usual, encouraging people to enjoy free entertainment going out to the countryside,” said Guillen.

In France, the B.O. perfs of U.S. movies were unspectacular in the first two months of the year, but cinemagoing has been buoyed by French movies, which took a 49% B.O. share.

By contrast, in Spain no local pics have scored really big numbers, where youth unemployment, now at 49%, has hit core attendance demos, especially for premium-priced 3D movies, Guillen said.

With Spain’s government promising tough austerity measures through early 2012, movies now appear too expensive for many Spanish families.

“In 2008, cinemagoing was seen in Spain as cheap leisure. After three years of crisis and ticket price increases that’s not necessarily true,” Guillen said.

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