Catalan to make local dubbing decree into law

Half of films released to be dubbed or subtitled into Catalan

MADRID -- Details of the Catalan regional government's plan to demand distributors dub their films into the local language came to light this week as a draft of the legislation was made public.

The proposed law calls for half of all films released to be dubbed or subtitled into Catalan, with the exception of Spanish films and those released on fewer than 16 copies. The proposal gives distributors a four-year grace period to transition, but will apply hefty fines -- as much as €75,000 ($112,000) -- for infraction.

While Fedicine -- the federation that groups the U.S. majors - has not commented publicly on draft, the Catalan Culture Secretary Joan Manel Tresserras said they had been in talks for over a year with the U.S. distributors to hammer out an acceptable proposal.

"We understand that the industry is more receptive now because of technological advances, and given the crisis in the traditional model and that the Catalan cultural system is stronger," said Tresserras.

But exhibitors in Catalonia reacted immediately, decrying government interference in the market and suggesting that each multiplex offer one screen exclusively for Catalan-language screenings. But regional authorities dismiss that option outright since it would only provide 8% of the screens for movies in Catalan.

The proposed Film Law in Catalonia, comes 10 years after the U.S. majors faced down a similar push by regional authorities in 1998 by threatening to boycott distribution in the northeastern region.

But this time, regional authorities think they might get their way.

"There's a strong probability of an absolute majority in the Catalan parliament for such a measure so that we can make it not just a decree [as in 1998], but a law," Tresserras told THR.

Catalan authorities hope to pass the legislation by June.