Spain's film industry woos moviegoers

Admission price slashed for three days next week

MADRID -- Sometimes the picture tells the whole story. That seemed to be the case Tuesday as Spain's film industry showed its first demonstration of unity as it announced the "Fiesta de Cine" initiative to attract Spaniards back into movie theaters.

The initiative -- which organizers expect to become an annual event coinciding with the end of school in June -- aims to draw moviegoers back into theaters by offering any film on more than 2,860 screens countrywide for €2 a ticket ($2.77) from June 21-23.

But the image of traditionally opposing sectors and their accompanying top brass executives working together to present the initiative was dramatic, and a testament to how dire the industry deems the present plunge in ticket sales.

"I'd like to express deep satisfaction at seeing the representation of unity at this table," said Ignasi Guardans, the Culture Ministry's Film Institute chief. "It is historic and significant that all the sectors of the industry, the producers, distributors, exhibitors and broadcasters, as well as the Academy and Culture Ministry, are involved. It's impressive."

Spanish Producers' Federation FAPAE president Pedro Perez and Film Academy president Eduardo Campoy announced the presentation alongside Luis Hernandez de Carlos, president of FEDICINE, which groups the U.S. majors, and Juan Ramon Gomez Fabra, president of the exhibitors federation FECE.

"Why are we all here together?" Fabra asked. "We're here together because we share a concern, which is the dropping movie theater attendance in Spain. With figures that drop 25% annually, we have to take action."

Rather than launch a message of desperation caused by the drop in theater attendance that accounts for only 31 million tickets sold and €193 million ($266.9 million) earned at the boxoffice this year, organizers chose to emphasize the "fiesta" (party) that invites people to leave their homes and see a film in the dark in a traditional theater.

With a chorus of "we're all in this together," the top brass of Spain's film industry said it was time to stop whining about Spanish cinema's dismal performance at the domestic boxoffice, the damage of pirating on ticket sales and the inability to compete with U.S. distributors.

"We have to show the inner workings of the kitchen less and present ourselves as a united front," Perez said.

Even so, the representative of Spanish producers made it clear that five Spanish films would be in theaters coinciding with the initiative and that it was time for Spaniards to start valuing what they have at home.

"Spanish cinema works better abroad than at home. Sadly, sometimes we need to know others value us to make us reflect on our own industry."

But there was no straying from the script. Each representative, including pubcaster TVE's head of film Gustavo Ferrada and pay channel Canal Plus' Director General Miguel Salvat, were clear that each sector has a vested interest in films performing well at the box office.

"There is no competition between the windows," Salvat said. "Broadcasters need a strong wrong in theaters for a film to work on our screen, too."

Though the focus was on the "fiesta de cine," the cloud of Spain's well-documented post as the world leader in illegal downloads loomed heavily.

"Unfortunately, there's a trend towards dropping attendance that is caused in part by pirating," de Hernandez said. "To fight this trend, we have set aside our differences to work together to bring people back into the movie theaters."