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European Commission wants Catalonia to open up distribution of non-Spanish films

The European Commission (EC) has requested Spain to put an end to the discriminatory rules in the Catalan Law on Cinema, which hurts the distribution of non-Spanish films.

According to the EC, the legislation which requires 50% of films to be distributed in Catalonia in Catalan (including original, dubbed and subtitled versions) is incompatible with the European Union’s rules on the free movement of services.

The law had had the effect of making the circulation of non-Spanish European films in Spain more expensive and thus more difficult.

While Spanish films in their original Castilian version have been exempt from this obligation, distributors of non-Spanish European films were faced with additional costs of between €25,000 and €77,000 for dubbing or between €2,000 and €5,730  for subtitling.

This Law on Cinema had provided for a derogation for films distributed on less than 16 prints, but more than half of the non-Spanish European films distributed in Catalonia are still affected.

The Spanish authorities must now notify the EC within two months that they have curtailed these discriminatory rules. If they fail to do so, the Commission could refer the case to the EU’s Court  of Justice.

The Catalan regional parliament had passed this controversial law in summer 2010. It came into effect progressively from January 1, 2011, with a target of 50% of films using Catalan by 2018

The legislation had angered many local exhibitors at the time, who were concerned that the language obligation would result in the closure of cinemas as well as the numbers of prints in circulation and of tickets sold falling.

In fact, the Catalan government had tried to introduce similar regulations in 1998 but was forced to back down after US studios threatened to boycott distribution in the region.

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