Titling its annual report on the state of the national film industry 'The Crisis to Come,' the Spanish Film Academy has warned that '2003 will be a critical year' for Spanish cinema.

The report, which analyses statistical data on the industry (official year-end figures have not yet been released by the Ministry of Culture) and quotes producers, distributors, exhibitors and government officials, says that "fewer shoots, a strangling of costs, lowered TV investment and fewer international sales are already being felt."

Spain followed the trend seen in other European countries of lower overall box office revenues in 2002 -- down 5% from Euros 616m to Euros 585m -- and reduced admissions -- down 8% from 148m to 136m.

But for Spanish films, which comprised a typically low 12% box office share in 2002, the losses were even greater: ticket sales dropped by Euros 40m, or 36.4%, from Euros 110m to Euros 70m, and admissions fell by close to half from 26.6m to 15m.

Among the factors the Academy cites for the low box office turnout are a general scaling back of personal spending in Spain and, among domestic films, a lack of breakaway hits.

The report highlights the "precariousness" of Spain's production sector, in which only 2.9% of producers made four or more films last year while the great majority, 82.4%, made just one film. Also tellingly, only 5.2% of Spanish films were budgeted at Euros 5m or more last year.

Among other factors affecting the local industry, the report cites serious financing cutbacks at broadcasters, a sector undergoing its own worrying transformation pending a merger of pay platforms Via Digital and Canal Satelite Digital, and a shrinking of the government's Cinema Protection Fund.

In the exhibition sector, the report highlights Spain's saturated marketplace where an average ten titles premiere weekly, the biggest of them on as many as 515 copies in a country with 3,488 screens. North American films comprise 43% of premieres and 77% of ticket sales.