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Spanish Producers Urge Government to Revamp Film Financing Model

I'm So Excited Trailer - H 2013
Pedro Almodovar’s "I'm So Excited" has been one of the few local successes at the Spanish box office this year.

The plea comes as the local film producer's lobby reports the Spanish box office is down 13.5 percent from the same time last year.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – Joxe Portela, the new face of the Spanish film industry in his post atop the country's main producers lobby, the FAPAE, used his first public appearance to call on the Spanish government to stop dragging its feet with its proposed financial reforms for the industry.

“A new finance model is urgent, indispensable and already agreed upon between the private and public sectors -- in the form of the ICAA film institute. The government has to decide if it is going to move forward with the measures and take the next step. All the technical work has been done,” Portela said.

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According to Portela, the proposed changes are based on Spain's 2008 Film Law, which passed with parliamentary support. The changes are in-line with what has been discussed and approved unofficially.

“I want to think that we haven’t been working in the committees that were set up last year just to entertain ourselves and that it is moving toward legislative changes,” he added. “We want to switch from a subsidy model to a fiscal incentive and tax break model. But the changes need to be made.”

Portela also appealed to the government to rethink the 21 percent sales tax placed on movie theater admissions, while admitting that his sources suggest that it won’t be debated until at least halfway through 2014.

The tax jumped from 8 percent to 21 percent as part of the Spanish government’s austerity measures and budget tightening.

“There seems to be a will to change it, but it’s going very slowly,” said Jose Antonio Felez, president of producer association AEC.

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The statement was made in the framework of the annual press conference held jointly with pubcaster Television Espanola at the 61st San Sebastian International Film Festival, where Fapae presents the Spanish industry’s financial figures to date.

According to Felez, who presented the study, the film industry is suffering on all fronts. Spanish film releases are down 24 percent from last year, with 61 films compared to last year’s 80 -- a far cry from the 230 foreign films released so far this year, as of last week.

Overall box office earnings are down 13.5 percent at $486 million (360 million euros), with homegrown films earning $55 million (41 million euros), 7 million euros less than the same period in 2012, representing an 18 percent drop.

The number of shoots dropped 28.7 percent from 2012 and budgets are shrinking, with more than half of Spanish films operating on a budget of less than $1.35 million (1 million euros). Even so, 15 films cost more than $4 million (3 million euros), with eight of those weighing in over $5.4 million (4 million euros).

“Don’t just look at the box office figures. Look at the budgets. The state’s general budget hasn’t  been cut 50 percent, but film budgets have,” Portela said.

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The Spanish film industry cornered 11.3 percent of the movie going market, similar to last year at this time. Though last year, Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible was just about to release buoying the local figure to 19.5 percent by December of 2012.

The Spanish box office fell 15.8 percent, selling 34 million tickets, with 5.9 million of them for domestic fare, approximately a 20 percent drop from last year’s 7.3 million.

The good news?

There are 10 films of the 61 Spanish films released this year that have crossed the one-million euro milestone at the box office ($1.35 million). And one -- Pedro Almodovar’s I'm So Excited -- surpassed the 5 million euro mark ($6.75 million).

In a demonstration of continued commitment and great fanfare of public service, Television Espanola president Leopoldo Gonzalez-Echenique said the pubcaster will participate in 62 projects, including 18 features, 31 documentaries, five TV movies and three mini-series. The pubcaster will invest some $40.5 million (30 million euros).

“We want to continue being an important interlocutor and player in the industry,” TVE general manager Ignacio Corrales said. “Not because it is our obligation, but as a public service. We have turned our strategy on its head and are screening Spanish cinema on our main channel [not the small, cultural second channel].”

Some of the projects TVE will back this year are: Agusti Villaronga’s El Rey de la Habana, Manuel Gomez Pereira’s La Ignorancia de la Sangre, Gerardo Olivares’s El Faro de las Orcas, Javier Ruiz Caldera’s Anacleto, agente secreto, Juan Cruz and Jose Coracho's Incidencias and Isaki Lacuesta’s Murieron por encima de sus posibilidades.

The slate also boasts documentaries, such as Iciar Bollain’s En tierra extraña. Emigrantes 2.0 and Eduardo Chapero Jackson’s El Septimo Sueno.