Four of Spain's leading arthouse distributors have formed the Independent Film Distributors' Association (ADICINE) to provide a lobby for their interests in the exhibition of European films in Spain.

Alta Films, Wanda Vision, Golem Distribucion and Vertigo Films are responsible for some 80% of European films exhibited in Spain, excluding local titles. Yet they say that between them they currently hold unsold TV rights, mostly free-to-air, to more than 250 European titles already premiered theatrically - including Amelie, No Man's Land, Italian For Beginners and Breaking The Waves.

Stressing that their sector "could disappear within the year" if local broadcasters do not begin buying rights to European films, the four companies have accused local broadcasters of backing virtually no European titles. "Via Digital was our last outlet until they suddenly stopped buying and began trying to renegotiate previous contracts" in the autumn of 2001, said Alta CEO Enrique Gonzalez Macho. "Within Europe, Spain has the fewest number of European films broadcast on TV," said Wanda's Miguel Morales.

"Our goal is to see all the channels carry through fully on the EU legislation" requiring them to invest 5% of their annual income in EU product, said Golem head Pedro Zaratiegui, asserting that broadcasters use 'tricks' such as broadcasting classic films, to fulfil the obligation without acquiring new product.

The distributors say the true effects of the "crisis" won't be seen until their current back-log of acquisitions dries up. "The problem isn't what we've already lost but rather what we won't be able to buy, because our business is like a wheel," said Gonzalez Macho.

Golem has dropped from an annual eight to ten pick-ups to two or less this year. The usually prolific Alta Films had not acquired a single new title in 18 months until it picked up The Magdalene Sisters and 11/09/01 last month.

"Directors like Ken Loach, Bertrand Tavernier and Stephen Frears will have to go directly to Spanish broadcasters themselves with their next films because we won't be able to finance them," Vertigo chief Andres Martin said. Indeed, Alta Films - a longtime backer of Loach's films - has already had to turn down participation in the director's next movie.

The distributors claim the entire fabric of the local film industry is at risk: "If we disappear the industry will disappear," Gonzalez Macho said.