Spain's Alta Films Considering Shutdown (Report)

Enrique Gonzalez Macho H

Enrique Gonzalez Macho, head of the flagship Spanish film production studio, distributor and exhibitor, says he's ready to call it quits.

MADRID -- Alta Films, one of Spain's flagship distributors, exhibitors and producers, said it may be forced to close its doors, which would include shutting down the lion's share of the country's subtitled movie houses.

"We've come this far, but people have stopped going to the movies and DVD is ruined and the broadcasters -- particularly the pubcaster -- are no longer supporting Spanish cinema or art house in general," Alta Films chief Enrique Gonzalez Macho said in a full-page interview in the Spanish daily El Pais Thursday.

The distributor of films like The Artist, Gonzalez Macho is a 30-year veteran Spanish buyer and the current president of the Spanish Film Academy. His exhibition circuit -- which includes Renoir and Princesa -- has shrunk from 200 screens in eight cities around Spain to 20. Just this week, Alta closed its Renoi Majadahonda theater.

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"We'll try to hang on with something much smaller, but the truth is there's very little we can do, and the truthfully, I'm ready to go," Gonzalez Macho said in the article written by Borja Hermoso.

Gonzalez Macho was unavailable Thursday for comment.

Alta Films' distribution branch Alta Classics has brought a long list of international art house fare to Spain including works by Woody Allen, Michael Haneke, Atom Egoyan, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Nanni Moretti, Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh, Roman Polanski, Steven Soderbergh and Arturo Ripstein.

"There are other Spanish distributors of independent cinema, but I think they will have the same fate as us," he said.

"The films on offer in Spain will be impoverished. There's an enormous list of very interesting films that, except at festivals in marginal screenings, Spanish audiences won't get to see."

Gonzalez Macho blamed a decline in cinema attendance, rampant piracy and a lack of support from broadcasters for the current situation, but pointed a finger clearly at the Spanish government for "the present lack of political sensitivity with respect to culture, including the sales tax increase."

In November, amid a suffocating financial crisis and country-wide austerity measures, the Spanish government bumped the sales tax rate on theater admissions from 8 percent to 21 percent.