More movie horror as Spanish box office slumps further in 2013

Takings were down 107 million euros on the previous year

Mama was the top-earning Spanish film of 2013.
Mama was the top-earning Spanish film of 2013.

And the fall continues. Cinema in Spain failed to pick up in 2013. Provisional figures for the year show takings at the Spanish box office totaled 507 million euros, 107 million less than in 2012, when, according to the ICAA — the Culture Ministry body that oversees film in Spain — cinemas took in 614 million euros, 119.8 million of which were for homegrown films. And neither was 2012 a good year, because in 2011 box office takings came in at 635 million.

That figure of 507 million, provided by media measurement service Rentrak, will rise slightly when the ICAA finalizes its accounts in the middle of the year. While Rentrak publishes the computerized box office figures from movie theaters, the ICAA also adds earnings from one-off screenings and summer open-air cinemas, among other sources.

This time the fall is not just the fault of Spanish cinema, but has been across the board. As Rentrak Vice President for Europe and the Middle East Arturo Guillén says: “We have not appreciated the importance of the fact that for two years in a row the highest-grossing films [in Spain] have been Spanish.” In 2011 Torrente 4 led the list of top-earning titles after taking 19.3 million euros. In 2012 that honor went to Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, with 41 million. “This year that did not happen, but the fall has been generalized, because the highest-earning film of the year did not surpass 14 million euros.” That movie was animation The Croods, which earned 13.7 million euros, with The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in second place with 13.6 million.

It has been a turbulent year for distributors and exhibitors, marked by the new 21 percent value-added tax rate on movie tickets and piracy. If 94 million tickets were sold in 2012, only around 80 million were purchased in 2013. The fall does not hurt the Finance Ministry, nor its head Cristóbal Montoro, who has had to retract several unfortunate comments made about Spanish cinema recently. According to various calculations by professionals in the industry the tax agency will collect 88 million euros with the 21-percent VAT rate, three times more than with the previous rate.

The year was also marked by the resounding bang made by the Fiesta del Cine promotion, which saw an amazing 1.6 million film tickets sold at the discount price of 2.90 euros in the space of three days (Monday October 21 to Wednesday October 23) — seven times more than during the same three days the previous week.

The highest-grossing Spanish film of 2013 was horror film Mama, the feature debut of Barcelona-based Argentinean director Andrés Muschietti that starred Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. The Spanish-Canadian coproduction grossed more than eight million euros.

Things are not looking better for 2014. Even though industry and government representatives on the film commission recently announced an agreement that includes tax breaks of up to 25 percent for film and a reduction in the VAT rate, another figure does not augur well for Spanish cinema: in 2013, 92 film shoots were registered with the ICAA, 28 percent fewer than in 2012 — and of those, only 15 had a budget of over two million euros.

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