Spain Drags Behind in Digital World

In 2008, Spain was a digital cinema laggard. But Avatar proved the gamechanger. Driven by 3D, Spanish digital screen numbers skyrocketed 400% last year, according to Screen Digest. By March this year, there were over 325 digital screens in Spain, of which 265 were 3D -- that number will be around 350 by the end of the year.

More 3D screens means more B.O. cash. After 18 weeks, Avatar sold 9.2 million tickets, collecting $100.6 million in Spain. Spanish theaters charge a premium price of €3 ($4.1) for 3D films sessions above the 2D movie ticket prices ($10.80).

"We don't have enough 3D screens to meet the demand," says Fernando Evole, CEO of Spain's top local exhibition loop, Yelmo Cines.

The screen growth of 3D is currently slowing, simply because there isn't enough projection equipment to meet a huge demand from exhibitors. Another obstacle is financing. Big Spanish circuits are paying the cost of conversion out of their own pockets. Whether Spain's smaller loops have the capital to go digital is currently open to question. For the moment at least, they aren't being offered any significant government aid.

"The market could fracture, creating a two-tier exhibition sector, split between cinemas which can go digital and those that can't," Evole adds.

By Emiliano De Pablos, Variety