Biz problems target U.S. orgs

Lawsuits, exhib'n problems strain Spain pic relations

MADRID — It’s normally France which squares off with the U.S. over film and TV. But some Trans-Atlantic rumbles have moved south. In Spain, tensions are brewing on several fronts:

  • Spain’s Feece exhibitors lobby is attempting to sue U.S. studios, alleging anti-competitive practices;

  • The Screen Actors Guild has presented a lawsuit against Spain’s Aisge actors rights collection entity for supposed money due;

  • Spain’s Platform for the Defense of Spanish Film is prepping a July conference which, among other matters, will analyze the U.S. lock on distribution and exhibition;

  • On a more localized level, Spain’s biggest art pic exhib Enrique Gonzalez Macho yanked all Warner Sogefilms pics from his screens April 2, ired by WS’ ceding a copy of Pedro Almodovar’s “Bad Education” to a rival hardtop across the street.

Spain’s new PSOE government has said it will support France’s defense of “cultural exception.”

While Gonzalez Macho and WS have now settled their differences, others may rage for years. Feece reportedly charges the majors’ sub-branches with block-booking and price-fixing.

Spain’s antitrust services could take until September to collate statements from the defense, and its antitrust court another year to deliver a verdict, if it decides there’s a case to be judged.

A ruling on SAG’s suit may come this year. The case, however, is complex.

SAG and Aisge signed an agreement in 2000 for Aisge to pay SAG 35% of the coin it collects for the screening of films and TV shows in Spain. But, says Aisge sources, that accord anticipated the inking of an international performing rights accord which never happened, rendering the deal illegal. SAG believes Aisge is withholding monies owed to U.S. performers; Aisge denies this.

“SAG had a written agreement which Aisge has not honored. It continues to be our hope that this issue can be resolved amicably,” says SAG senior executive Seth Oster.

In the final analysis, however, the legal controversy may be all for the good, clarifying issues. “Spanish producers have been talking about the majors’ supposed anti-competitive practices for years. The lawsuit at least allows these issues to be aired and a third party to analyze them,” said Warner Sogefilms Luis Hernandez de Carlos, who is also president of distrib lobby Fedicine.

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