A Spanish court has handeddown fines of $3.2m (Euros 2.4m) each on five multinational distributorsaccused of price fixing and otheranti-competitive practices in Spain.

The decision, affectingDisney/Buena Vista, Sony Pictures, Hispano Fox, UIP and the now defunct jointventure Warner Sogefilms, puts an end to a caseinitiated more than three years ago by the local exhibitors' federation FECE.

In its decision, Spain's Anti-Trust Court said the studios had broken the law by applyingalmost identical conditions on exhibitors, "limiting, if not annuling, competition... through the almost identicalfixing of prices and commercial practices."

The decision mentionedidentical rental fees of a 60% take of first-week ticket sales applied by allof the distributors on their most successful films in 2002.It also citedsignificant overlap in contracts concerning systems of liquidation, pricing,collections, control of ticket sales, advertising of films, selection oftheatres, time of exhibition and the delivery andreturn of copies.

These similarities, thedecision read, "highlight the existence of anagreement among the accused to homogenize their commercial policies withexhibitors. Through the fixed practices the accused extract extraordinarybenefits they could not obtain in an environment of real competition."

In Spain last year, these top five distributors represented acombined 69% of all box-office receipts.

The Spanish distributors'federation was also fined $1.15m (Euros 900,000) for acting as intermediaryproviding key information through its databases, including anticipated premieredates and daily box office figures.

"The decision sides with usin everything, point by point, andrecognizes all of our demands," saidRafael Alvero, current director of FECE. "We see thisas a clear opportunityto regulate the market."