Spanish cinemagoing reverses 5-year trend

First half of 2009 admissions up 8%, boxoffice up 13%

MADRID -- Spanish movie attendance in the first half of the year rose 8% over the same period in 2008 to 48.8 million viewers for an increase of 3.7 million people, reversing a five-year downward spiral, the Spanish Federation of Exhibitors (FECE) reported Thursday.

Boxoffice receipts were up 13% to €296 million ($413 million) -- €35 million ($488 million) more than January-June 2008.

"This is great news as it is the first time in five years we've seen an increase in movie attendance for this period," said FECE communications chief Borja de Benito.

De Benito attributed the surge to three factors: the popularity among younger viewers of the new 3-D films, Hollywood blockbusters like "Angels and Demons" and a raft of good Spanish films released over the past six months.

"There is also the fact that in tough economic times people don't have the money to go out of town on the weekends which is common here so they stay home and decide on the relatively cheap option of a film," he said.

Sony's "Angels and Demons" was the top film, attracting 2.4 million viewers and with a boxoffice take of €15 million ($21 million) followed by Warner's "Gran Torino" with 2 million viewers which earned €12.7 million ($17.7 million).

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was third with 20 million tickets sold worth €12.2 million ($17 million), followed by Filmax's "Slumdog Millionaire" with an audience of 17 million and €10.4 million ($14.5 million) in receipts.

Among Spanish films, "Fuga de Cerebros", distributed by Fox, was the leader with 1.1 million viewers and €6.7 million ($9.3 million) in earnings and "Mentiras y Gordas" was second with 715,000 viewers, taking in €4.2 million ($5.8 million).

"These two films featured stars from hit television series so the viewers got off of the sofa and went to the cinema to see their favorites," De Benito said.

The FECE spokesman said that theatre owners expected the good times to keep on rolling this year with the upcoming releases of much-awaited films such as the latest in the Harry Potter franchise, "Up" and "Public Enemies."