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Film industry in crisis after worst weekend in box-office history

Takings 30 percent down on previous minimum figure

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Greg Kinnear in Stuck in Love.

“We are in a state of panic.” The reaction of the president of the Spanish film producers association (FAPAE), Pedro Pérez, to the estimate of last weekend’s takings at the Spanish box office, could not have been blunter.

“It has decreased more than 30 percent compared with the worst figure in history; we have gone down to receipts of 2,150,857 euros,” Pérez said, after speaking at the Madrid de Cine-Spanish Film Screenings event in the capital this week.

The vice-president of media measurement company Rentrak Europa, Arturo Guillén, had used the occasion to report the news that last weekend the Spanish box office took in a third less than the previous worst figures recorded. Just over 300,000 people went to the cinema in Spain last Saturday and Sunday, compared with the previous minimum of 500,000 recorded on the weekend of April 20 and 21, when box office takings amounted to 3.8 million euros.

One statistic worth noting: a movie that does well at the Spanish box office would normally reap around two million euros — the total amount taken by all this week’s releases.

In terms of measuring the box-office health of a film, a standard — or at least acceptable — result would be an average yield of 1,500 euros per screen. In the top 20 published by Rentrak this week, no film managed to achieve that. The Hangover Part III was unable to maintain its pull and ended up with a screen average of 1,122 euros, only surpassed by new arrival Stuck in Love with 1,481 euros.

“We have to fight back with aggressive pricing policies,” said Pérez. “If people aren’t going into theaters at the moment because they think the cinema is expensive, it doesn’t matter what we think: we have to act accordingly.”

Pérez said he recognized the impact of the 13-point hike in the VAT rate, from eight to 21 percent, but stressed that his decision to lower prices was essential.

Rentrak España, which has been measuring theater box office takings since 1997, said the figures reflect the fact that last Saturday and Sunday marked the first weekend of the year with warm weather, and that there was no big commercial title to draw people in this week.

The problem, Guillén warned, was that of the nine worst weekends for audience numbers in Spanish box-office history, six have been recorded in the first six months of this year. “It’s a slap of such magnitude,” said Guillén, that it poses the challenge of “finding a ray of light in the figures that we have.”