Catalan Film Law passed

50% of films released must be dubbed or subtitled into Catalan

MADRID -- Parliamentarians in Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia have passed a controversial law requiring half of all commercial films to be dubbed into the local language.

Passed by a vote of 117 to 17 on Wednesday, the Catalan Cinema Law stipulates that 50% of films released in the region must be dubbed or subtitled into Catalan. The law does not apply to films with fewer than 16 copies released in Catalonia.

Distributors who do not comply could face fines of between €1,000 ($1,200) and €75,000 euros ($92,000).

Catalonia's nationalist government sees the law as a way to further promote the use of Catalan, a romance language related to Spanish and French and which most people in the region speak.

Use of the language was banned under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco which ended with his death in 1975.

Regional cultural minister Joan Manuel Tresserras defended the measure, saying it would guarantee linguistic diversity and help the film industry.

But movie distributor association Fedicine, whose members include the U.S. majors, has complained that the law was unfair and would result in reducing the number of films, forcing movie theaters to close and lead to job losses.

Currently, only 3% of films released in the four-province region are dubbed or subtitled into Catalan.

Catalonia, of which Spain's second-largest city; Barcelona, is the capital, is an important player in the Spanish film industry, accounting for 20% of Spain's film market.

The majority of Spaniards prefer dubbed films, which cost about €50,000 euros ($61,000) to dub.