BARCELONA — The Hollywood majors are threatening to slash their release slate and open titles in English without subtitles in Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions.
The threat is a reaction to a controversial law approved Wednesday by the Catalan Parliament. The Catalan Film Law stipulates that half of a film’s dubbed or subtitled print run must be dubbed or sub-titled into Catalan. If copies are digitized, all copies must have a Catalan dub or subtitles. The rules do not apply to European pics released on 16 or fewer prints.
Many Catalans have some knowledge of English, but non-dubbed studio releases, which also lack subtitles, would decimate box office.
“The law will have dramatic effects for the Catalan spectator: Many movies won’t get a release, many others won’t be dubbed,” Luis Hernandez de Carlos, prexy of Spanish distrib lobby Fedecine, which groups all Hollywood’s Spanish sub-branches.
Approved by 117 to 17 votes, the law looks unlikely to be overturned by Catalonia’s main opposition party, the conservative Convergencia i Unio, which is the favorite to win Catalonia’s upcoming November elections.
“Only industry pressure could bring about changes,” Catalan media lawyer Enric Enrich told Daily Variety.
Hernandez de Carlos said the studios had established a gentleman’s agreement with the Catalan government to release a certain number of family titles — such as “Shrek Forever After” — in Catalan. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One” is one of the last titles to be included in the list.
One of the studios main fears is that similar legislation could now be passed in Spain’s Basque Country and Galicia, both of which have regional languages.
Hernandez de Carlos said these other regions were waiting to see how the Catalan situation played out.
The new provisions will come into effect in approximately six months. The ratio of Catalan to Spanish prints will be upped progressively over seven years to reach a final 50-50 balance. Even so, Catalan exhibitors are up in arms.
The law “throws out a mainstream product and imposes another one,” says Catalan exhibitor lobby prexy Camilo Tarrazon. “We think it’s unconstitutional.”
“With the law’s introduction, Spain’s already rampant piracy will increase all the more in Catalonia,” one Spanish studio exec claimed.
According to Catalan government sources, just 2.9% of the foreign films that bowed last year in Catalonia were dubbed or subtitled into Catalan. The rest went out in Spanish. Catalonia’s total B.O. for 2009 was Euros 145 million ($181 million).
The Catalan Film Law establishes a framework agreement for Catalan film funding, an important boost for local talent, R&D and digital cinema, said Xavier Parache, film-TV finance director at the ICIC Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries.
“But nobody’s paying any attention to any of these aspects,” he said.