Law propels Catalan dubbing initiative

Requires half of all copies in Spanish to be dubbed in Catalan

MADRID -- Forcing distributors to dub commercial films into the local language in Spain's northwestern region of Catalonia moved a step closer to reality Tuesday when the regional cabinet gave a green light to the Catalan Cinema Law.

The law requires 50% of all copies of films released in the region to be dubbed or subtitled into Catalan when they are released in Spanish. The film does not apply to films with fewer than 16 copies released in the region.

Distributors that fail to comply will be fined €1,000-€5,000 per copy that doesn't comply with the law.

"The law looks to change a habit," said a spokesman for the Catalan regional government's Culture Department. "It's trying to get distributors to behave in Catalonia the way they do in any other part of the world, by adapting to the linguistic reality."

Catalonia has become a key locomotive in the Spanish industry, representing some 20% of Spain's film market for the past few years. A vast majority of people living in the region speak both Spanish and Catalan.

Spaniards overwhelmingly prefer dubbed movies, which cost about €50,000 ($63,000) to dub.

The law must now go before the regional parliament, where it is likely to pass.

Fedicine, which represents the biggest distributors in Spain -- including the U.S. majors, called the measure "unfair" and said it would prove counterproductive by reducing the cinematic offer in the region.

"Instead of achieving the objects it's said to be pursing, it will provoke the complete opposite effect, reducing the offer of films, closing movie theaters and destroying 1,768 jobs," Fedicine said.