Fueled by a wave of multiplex construction, Spanish B.O. admissions have so far shown six years of continual growth from their all-time low in 1988. Some parts of the country are nearly saturated with screens, but Spain still has a way to go compared with other major Euro territories, observers say.

Ticket sales in Spain went from 69.6 million in 1988 to 89.1 million in 1994. Official May 1995 figures put the total number of screens at 1,791.

The ideal time to get into the market was a few years back but, for investors wanting in, there’s still time, says Ricardo Gil, director of marketing and public relations at the United Cinemas Intl.-owned Cinesa cinema chain, the current leader here in plex building.

The future looks good if you know the area where you’re investing.

“Around Madrid, multiplexes are being built too near each other. Two multiplexes in the same area mean both lose,” says Gil. “Madrid’s surroundings are saturated, with one screen for every 12,000 possible moviegoers.”

Despite fears about saturation in some areas, cities across northern Spain – in Galicia, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Catalonia and north of Valladolid – are still prime areas for future investment.

Says Toni Badimon, deputy director at Lauren Films in Barcelona, “The trick is to be careful about who else is in the area, who owns the shopping center, and how it’s going to function.”

Fourteen of Lauren’s 21 screens are in four multis. Badimon confirms that an 1,800-seat nine-plex will open in Reus, Catalonia, in December, as will an 850-seat four-plex in Barcelona. Lauren plans at least 10 more screens by the end of 1996. And there’s talk of an 18-plex in the works for Barcelona.

In general, observers point to the services that multiplexes offer as the reason for their success. “The public is attracted by ticket reservations, quality audiovisual equipment, concession stands and cleanliness, which were not always the norm before,” says Liam Maher, G.M. of Warner-Lusomundo’s seven-plex at La Moraleja in northern Madrid.

Maher says Warner- Lusomundo – a co-venture between WB and Portuguese mega-distrib/exhib Lusomundo – plans to build 10 multis in Spain in the next 10 years. The company has a major eight-10 screen opening coming up in northern Spain.

Cinesa’s new state-of-the-art, 2,168-seater eight-plex at Barcelona’s Port Veil racked up 154,000 admissions from its July 7 opening to the end of August. By the end of next year, Cinesa, which currently controls or owns 89 screens, expects to open 22 more, including a nine-plex in Zaragoza in the next few months. Moving more into the regions of Galicia and Catalonia is part of its expansion strategy.

As in most markets where plexing has soared, foreign investors are also playing a role. France’s UGC plans a 12-to 15-screen 2,500-seater at the Menendez Alvaro shopping mall on Madrid’s city limits by Jan. ’96.

Leading local exhibs include ACEC and Enrique Gonzalez Macho. ACEC has a solely Catalan exhibition circuit, with 76 screens; by the end of this year, it plans to open a 2,000-seat nine-screen in Sabadell. Gonzalez Macho has 26 screens since opening the Canciller cinemas in Madrid. Plans include a seven-plex in Guadalajara and the restoration of Barcelona’s Renoir Las Corts (six screens) and Madrid’s Roxy B (two screens), Lido (six screens) and Narvaez (three screens).