Exhibs demand screen quota changes

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MADRID -- Spain's exhibitors Tuesday demanded immediate changes to what it called the nation's "unconstitutional" obligatory screen quota for domestic cinema, which it blames in part for a steep dip in 2006 boxoffice figures.

"The exhibition sector's alarm is not only caused by the Spanish cinema attendance figures," exhibitor federation FECE said in a statement. "But it is also thanks to the Culture Ministry's policy of maintaining a screen quota for Spanish and European cinema that the exhibition sector considers unfair, arbitrary, useless and unique from other countries."

The screen quota requires one day of Spanish film to be exhibited for every three from another country. According to the federation, the ministry has ignored the sector's pleas to eliminate the quota and instead plans to intensify it under the proposed new Cinema Law.

According to FECE, which represents more than 90% of the country's exhibitors, the new law will base the quota on the number of films screening, rather than days screened.

"For the exhibition sector, the new measure, far from encouraging growth and development of Spanish cinema will favor the interests of those operators in the industry that accumulate subsidies at the cost of the exhibitors. And it will mean a de facto inhibition of the consumers' capacity to choose," the statement reads.

According to the Culture Ministry's year-end figures, Spanish films attracted 2.6 million fewer people and earned €8.5 million ($11 million) less than in 2005. U.S. films saw their boxoffice figures rise by about 10 million admissions and €70 million ($90.8 million).
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