Spain’s pic admissions drop again

Stats confirm a poor year for European cinemagoing

MADRID — Spanish cinema attendance dropped for the second year running in 2003, with ticket sales topping out at 131.5 million, 2% down from 134.7 million in 2002, according to figures released Wednesday by Nielsen EDI Spain.

Stats confirm a poor year for European cinemagoing in 2003 and a big break in Spain’s sparkling 13 years of unbroken admissions growth from 1989 to 2001.

Total Spanish B.O. did edge up 1.2% to E620.2 million ($780.8 million) last year, owing to a 4% hike in cinema ticket prices over 2003.

“Piracy, less arresting films and DVD/home entertainment have all dented Spanish cinemagoing and piracy is on the increase,” said Jose Manuel Pimenta, managing director of EDI Nielsen Spain.

Produced by Sogecine, “Mortadelo & Filemon,” Javier Fesser’s live-action version of a Spanish comicbook series, was the highest-grossing pic, taking $28.1 million through Jan 1.

It just edged out “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” ($28 million), followed by “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” ($26.8 million), “Finding Nemo” ($24.9 million) and “Bruce Almighty” ($21.8 million).

The Hollywood majors can take comfort from two factors, however.

Even though “The Return of the King” was distribbed by Spanish indie Aurum, the majors’ total B.O. share (including U.S.-Spanish combo Warner Sogefilms) was up in 2003 to 73%, compared to 70% for 2002 and 68% in 2001.

Second, the dollar’s depreciation against the euro means that B.O. in Spain is now worth some 17% more in dollar terms than at year-end 2002.

Top-grossing distrib in Spain was Buena Vista Intl. with a 18.9% market share, besting UIP (17.5%), Warner Sogefilms (14.4%), Columbia TriStar (11.9%), 20th Century Fox (10.6%), Aurum (6.5%), Lauren (4.7%), TriPictures (3.6%), Filmax (3.1%), Manga (2.4%), Alta (1.9%) and Vertigo (1.1%).

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