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Movie night fades to black in Spain

Decline of U.S. pics on b'casters is long-term trend

MADRID — Commercial web Telecinco, the highest-rating Spanish broadcaster in 2004, has dropped its Friday-night movie slot “5 Star Cinema,” the longest-running U.S. film slot on free-to-air TV in Spain.

This continues Telecinco’s move from acquired programming, led by movies, to local primetime drama.

“5 Star Cinema” was Telecinco’s last remaining primetime window for movies.

On Jan. 14 it was replaced by local cop drama “El Comisario” (The Police Inspector), where pug-faced police inspector Gerardo Castilla finally nailed a child kidnapper.

“Inspector” copped a 28.5% share. The more costly “Cinema” averaged 23.8%.

“Movies are losing TV audiences but rising in costs. They don’t have a commercial logic any more,” Telecinco’s head of contents Manuel Villanueva says.

He adds that a U.S. movie now costs the same as 22 episodes of “CSI,” and that the cost of Spanish drama is on average 60% that of a U.S. film.

Per channel director Alberto Carullo, local fiction also primes audience loyalty toward Telecinco.

“5 Star Cinema” could bounce back. It will be pulled for three months, and then a decision made about its future.

Telecinco will maintain its deals with DreamWorks, Spyglass, Hyde Park and New Line (via Spanish indie TriPictures).

The ratings decline of U.S. pics on Spanish broadcasters is a long-term trend.

The most-seen movie on Spanish TV in 1994 was “Pretty Woman” with 9.2 million viewers. In 2004, it was “Jurassic Park 3” with 5.4 million. No movies figured in Spain’s Top 30 TV shows last year.

Telecinco’s dramas includes “CSI” on Mondays, “ER”-style series “Hospital Central” (Tuesdays), family drama “The Serranos” (Wednesdays) and “El Comisario” (Fridays). Sitcom “Aida” airs Sundays.

Per CEO Paolo Vasile, Spanish fiction will occupy 80% of Telecinco’s fiction airtime this year.

Telecinco raised its fiction production budget (excluding TV movies) by 36.5% to E62.4 million ($82.4 million) in 2004, and has earmarked $87.1 million this year.

It will shave $5 million-$10 million off its $90 million acquisition budget for U.S. pics in 2004.