Spanish production levels rose significantly last year but box-office for local product fell, according to the year-end analysis by the Spanish Cinema Academy.

Spain produced a whopping 104 films last year, seven more than the previous year and 25 more than in 1998. Average budgets on Spanish films continued their decade-long rise, up from $1.5m in 1999 to $1.8m in 2000.

But box office for local fare in 2000 dropped from $66m in 1999 to $52m in 2000. Market share for Spanish films fell from a high 14.5% in 1999 to 9.6% in 2000. US films cornered 82% of the market last year in Spain, while European films had 7.4%.

According to Jose Maria Alvarez, the report's author, the downturn is largely due to US multinationals' monopoly on screen time and releasing schedules. He argues that relatively few Spanish films were released in early 2000, while cumulative ticket sales on films released at the end of the year will show up on 2001 figures.

"We are absolutely dependent on the exhibition sector," stressed new Academy president, actress Marisa Paredes, during Friday's presentation of the figures in Madrid.

Reflective of one of Spanish cinema's greatest challenges, foreign sales accounted for just 7% of the sector's income in 1999. Of the 87 made films in 1999, 13 have not secured local theatrical distribution.

Spanish distributors seem stronger, however, with five Spanish companies amongst the top 10 distributors last year. Leading the pack were Laurenfilm, Aurum, Tripictures, Lola Films and Lider Films, most of which boast output deals with top US companies. They took 21.1%, or $101m, of ticket sales. Hispano FoxFilm, Columbia Tri-Star, Warner Espanola, UIP and Buena Vista International accounted for 32.5%, or $155m.

The report points to a more equal sharing of ticket sales amongst a larger number of Spanish films. Whereas in previous years a handful of films were responsible for the majority of ticket sales, last year only one local film - Alex de la Iglesia's Common Wealth - reached the watershed $5.7m mark.