U.S. dominates at turnstiles

· Candy (Lauren Films)
· Just Friends (Aurum)
· Mistress of Spices (DeAPlaneta)
· One Missed Call 2 (Notro Films)
· Planet Earth (Wanda Films)
2004 STATS
Top film: Shrek 2 (UIP, $7.8 million)
Top indie: The Sea Inside (Warner Sogefilms, $5.1 million)
Total B.O.: $886.7 million
Releases: 409
Screens: 4,390
Source: ICAA/Nielsen EDI

MADRID — Spain’s exhib market is picking up, but the local players have been slow to benefit.

While admissions in 2004 grew 4.7% to 143.9 million, reversing two years of decline, and total B.O. surged 8.2% to S691.6 million ($886.7 million), Hollywood studios took a combined 77.4% market share.

With Miramax titles going out through BVI rather than Lauren and no new “Lord of the Rings” pic for Aurum, indie distribs’ share plunged to 10%, from 22% the previous year, according to Nielsen EDI Spain.

Only the Warner Sogefilms-distribbed “The Sea Inside,” produced by Sogecine, and Aurum’s “The Passion of the Christ” and holdover “The Return of the King” made Spain’s top 20.

This is especially tough news for the sector as pay TV remains largely a closed window for indies.

Early 2005 has, however, seen some indie revival: Filmax’s “Million Dollar Baby” grossed $15 million through mid-April, TriPictures’ “Alexander” commanded $14 million and Alta Films’ “Les choristes” cued up $9 million.

The arrival of new distribs is reinvigorating the sector, however: Zeta’s On Pictures, which debuted with “Hotel Rwanda” — its B.O. through mid-April was a healthy $1.4 million — Adolfo Blanco’s Notro Films and Antoni Badimon’s Baditri.

“Good times could be coming for Euro film distributors with a new team at TVE supporting quality cinema,” says Wanda Films director Jose Maria Morales.

The DVD business offers indies some solace, although revenue at leading DVD/video distributors — U.S. studios and indies — dropped 2% in 2004 to $518 million.

“DVD is a life raft for art pics, despite piracy. For us it’s the most stable distribution window,” notes Notro CEO Adolfo Blanco.