Spanish cinema: in the red

Film Protection Fund will be unable to meet owed subsidy payments in 2014

A woman leaves Madrid's Renoir Cuatro Caminos movie theater, which closed on Monday.
A woman leaves Madrid's Renoir Cuatro Caminos movie theater, which closed on Monday.SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ (EL PAÍS)

A mixture of incredulity and rage greeted the latest punishment inflicted on subsidies to Spain's ailing film industry in the 2014 state budget on Monday. The lack of explanations from the minister responsible for culture, José Ignacio Wert; the absence of the secretary of state for culture, José María Lassalle (on paternity leave); and the same tomblike silence from the directors of the cultural bodies affected by the budgetary increases or cuts - whether for better or for worse - generated a tense atmosphere between the film industry and its political administrators over the course of the day.

According to the budget presented by Finance Minister Cristóbal Montoro on Monday, the amount put aside for film at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport has been slashed by five million euros - from 55.7 million in 2013 to 50.84 million in 2014, a fall of almost nine percent - while other disciplines, such as theater and music, have been notably favored.

The area worst hit by the cut is the Film Protection Fund, the body that provides subsidies to the industry, which will be reduced by 14 percent in comparison to this year - from 39.12 million to 33.7 million. According to the economic report that accompanied the Film Law, which was passed by Congress at the end of 2007 with votes from the then-ruling Socialist Party and opposition Popular Party, the fund should have reached 100 million euros by 2013, but its resources have only declined in the past four years - decreasing from 76 million in 2011 to 49 million in 2012, then to 39.28 million in 2013 and 33.7 million in 2014. The body still owes 21 million euros in amortization subsidies for films released in the last quarter of 2011 - these are paid with a two-year delay - which it doesn't know how to pay for. At the moment there is no money, which means they will have to go into the 2014 budget.

The amount needed to pay the amortization subsidies for 2014, which correspond to titles released in 2012, is 44 or 45 million euros - impossible with the total 33.7-million-euro fund budget. And that is without taking into account that this amount will also have to cover subsidies for short films and advance grants - normally for new directors or scripts. All these subsidies are governed by the Film Law.

The situation means only one thing: that the Spanish film industry is in the red.

"This cut is justified by the fact that we are currently revising the model of support with the whole of the sector, which is expected to rest less on subsidies and more on other fiscal incentives," Wert said on Monday. "There is no desire to set the performing arts against the film sector, but the fact is that we are not discussing a new model for theater, but we are for film."

Industry figures wasted no time in making their reactions known. The president of the Film Academy, Enrique González Maco, said he was "outraged" by the cut. "This means the paralysis of the Spanish industry," he said.

Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, director of the recently released La gran familia española, was despondent. "Maybe we will have to go and make films somewhere else," he said. "They are turning their back on a critical situation. [...] It is clear they are taking an industry apart."

"Secretary of state for culture José María Lassalle will have to be asked the reason for this reduction and what the intention of it was," said film producer José Antonio Félez. "There is some reason that is escaping us, because they know it is crucial to tackle the payment of subsidies that have already been awarded, for reasons relating to the survival of the production companies."

Producers' association president Joxé Portela had more questions: "How will the end of 2013 be with what they owe from 2011? What are the real numbers for 2014 going to be? Where are our representatives? Was Montoro the one who did the culture budget? Will we have fiscal measures?

"We have been working together for a year, trying to be cautious and without creating more tension. Now we need clear answers," he added.

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