Nearly all of Spain 's cinemas closed last night in protest against a proposed film law, which includes a 25% screen quota of Spanish and European films.

As many as 93% of country's 4,053 movie screens remained dark, according to the Federation of Spanish Cinemas, FECE, which organized the strike and represents 90% of country's exhibitors.

It is the first strike in the sector since 1993, when a royal decree would have obliged them to show European cinema four months a year.

The controversial Spanish film law was recently approved by the Council of Ministers and is expected to speed through Parliament by the end of the summer. The exhibitors' federation opposes several provisions, including the continued screen quota, which they say cost them $1.3bn (Euros 1bn) over the last six years in lost revenues.

The Spanish public, exhibitors argue, generally want Hollywood films. In 2006, Spanish and European productions attracted about 33,000 spectators who paid about 173,000 euros at the box office. American productions brought in more than 86,600 spectators and about $635,000 (Euros 453,000) at the box office.

'We're only complaining that they are obliging us to show films that are less interesting to the public than we need to,' FECE director general Rafael Alvero, told Cadena Ser radio last night.

Exhibitors also complain that the law does impose a cap on the fees charged by major American distributors, which are 15 to 20% higher in Spain than in other European countries, according to FECE.

The Culture Ministry defends the screen quota as necessary to support the national film industry and says that the long-standing grievances over the fees charged by Hollywood distributors should be addressed in court not through legislation.

Among the few movie houses that remained open on Monday were the art house cinemas that show foreign-language films with subtitles such as cines Renoir. Enrique Gonzalez, owner of the Renoir chain, is in favor of the quotas.

'The screen quota means that there are films that aren't American,' he told El Pais. 'There is a free market in subtitled films but in the dubbed version, there has to be a quota or Spanish cinema will disappear.'

He attributed the losses in the sector not to quotas but to an oversupply of movie houses. 'The exhibitors have built too many cinemas and the number of spectators has remained stable over the last five or six years,' he said.