DeAPlaneta topper Alvaro Zapata has exited the Spanish independent distributor-producer after it announced plans to downscale its aggressive buys and production plans.

The departure of Zapata, appointed executive president July 2004, comes as a shock.

The exit can be read, however, as one more case of a conservative conglom entering movies looking for higher margins than its traditional business without taking onboard the movie biz’s higher risks or lengthy recoupment cycles.

A forceful veepee at BVI Spain, Zapata was brought into DeAPlaneta by DeAgostini, its Italian partner.

The B.O. for its pickups has been mixed: “The Brothers Grimm” took a healthy E4.5 million ($5.5 million), “Saw 2” a so-so $4.3 million, “The Emperor’s Journey” just $402,278.

Company’s biggest bet as a producer, Vicente Aranda’s “Tirante el blanco,” opens in early April.

Under Zapata, sales increased dramatically, with DeAPlaneta becoming Spain’s third-biggest indie distrib in 2005.

Relations between Zapata and DeAPlaneta deteriorated when DeAgostini ceded control in January to its Spanish partner Planeta Corp., a publisher that diversified into kiosk-sold VHS distribution.