Magazine article Screen International

Spain: Battle for the Box Office

Magazine article Screen International

Spain: Battle for the Box Office

Article excerpt

Spain has seen a box-office boom in 2014 but admissions were driven by discount ticket schemes. Distributors and exhibitors are looking for new solutions, Juan Sarda reports.

At a time when admissions in many major European territories are on a downward trajectory, Spain saw a 14% increase in cinema-goers in 2014 compared with the previous year, as total admissions reached 87 million. Although far short of 2004's record 140 million customers, the upswing is a crucial reversal of five years of plunging cinema attendance. Yet Rentrak records that gross ticket sales rose just 3% year on year, to $605m.

One initiative -- now in its sixth year -- that has helped grow admissions but hurts the profit margins is a promotional programme called Fiesta de Cine, which sees Spain's exhibitors offer heavily reduced ticket prices -- at $3.25 ([euro]2.90), compared to a typical $7.90 ([euro]6.97).

For the first time the scheme ran twice in 2014, once in spring and once in autumn; each event was three days and covered 95% of the exhibition market. In April, 1.8 million cinema-goers took advantage of the offer, followed by 2 million in October.

Spain's producers' association FAPAE, distributors' group Fedicine and exhibitors' organisation FECE jointly back Fiesta de Cin. In 2014, the organisers also touted another discount scheme, Wednesday at the Cinema, again with tickets reduced by at least 50%.

"We did some very aggressive campaigns to lower the prices but the margins couldn't be tighter right now," says Fernando Evole, president of Yelmo Cines, which operates 400 screens throughout Spain. The industry's profits are also being hit by the 21% tax on cinema tickets.

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"It's obvious we cannot survive selling tickets at [euro]2.90 but it has been good to remind people we exist," adds Evole.

Heavy hitters

Local films Spanish Affair ($77m) and El Nino ($20m) both far surpassed expectations. Both were helped by heavy promotion on the channels owned by backer Telecinco's broadcaster parent Mediaset.

Evole says those results skew the overall growth. "A single film, Spanish Affair, has almost saved the year by itself. …

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