Spain's 3-D Exhibition Sector Fires Up

Spain's exhibition sector is being pulled begrudgingly into the 3-D era as theater chains scramble to get up to speed with the technology. A frenzy of activity from Spanish exhibitors over the past few weeks brings the number of screens prepped for 3-D distribution in Spain to 84 from 30 such screens available at the beginning of 2009. But that's still a tiny percentage of the 3,565 screens nationwide.

Barcelona-based mini-studio Filmax said Thursday that it has added 3-D technology to one screen at its flagship property, the 15-screen Filmax Gran Via complex, and will add its Coruna and Castelldefels property to the growing list. Filmax, which runs 40 screens at its four complexes, has opted for the XpanD system with active glasses, a Christie projector and Doremi server for the 3-D experience.

"Audiences are starting to demand 3-D and with the pirating situation as it is in Spain, the entertainment industry has to advance and we have to evolve," Filmax head of international Rafael Cabrera said.

Spain's largest exhibition chain Cinesa recently added DCI-compliant digital projectors to dozens of its theaters, bringing its offer to 25 screens within the past few weeks.

In December, Buena Vista released only 30 copies of Bolt in 3-D, which averaged an impressive €8,573 ($11,400) per copy in the first weekend, according to AC Nielsen EDI in Spain. The higher per-copy average is due partly to the increased ticket price for 3-D, with moviegoers paying €10 ($13) for 3-D screens, compared to €6.50 ($8.60) for 2-D.

The Spanish industry is looking at Paramount's Friday release of Monsters vs. Aliens as a defining moment.

"This weekend we'll be able to see how 3-D really works in Spain," said Jose Manuel Pimenta, GM of the AC Nielsen EDI office in Madrid. "Until now the demand has overwhelmed the offer. Now with 84 copies, we'll see how moviegoers respond."

Paramount will release 84 3-D copies, plus three Imax copies, in addition to the 425 2-D copies.

By Pamela Rolfe, The Hollywood Reporter