Spanish producers can already begin tapping into a new promotion fund for films released abroad, thanks to an initiative launched by the state Ministry of Economy with support from the Spanish Producers' Federation (FAPAE). The fund is effective immediately.

Juan Costa, Spain's secretary of state for commerce and tourism, announced yesterday in Madrid that the ministry would boost its funding for audiovisual promotion from $296,000 (PTS57m) to $2.6m (PTS500m) annually in an initial three-year initiative running from 2001 to 2004.

The goal is to foment broader exportation of Spanish films through initiatives such as an increased presence at international markets and festivals, enhanced Spanish-focused events such as the Spanish Film Screenings for Europe in Lanzarote, support for the creation of sales consortia and on-going analyses of market trends.

But arguably the most anticipated component of the initiative is the new Foreign Premieres Support Programme. Producers, a number of whom atypically turned out for the press conference where the initiative was announced, were told they could apply for funding of up to $86,320 (Euros100,000) per film released outside of Spain, with grants not to exceed 50% of promotional expenses per film, per country.

Representatives of FAPAE suggest they expect only an average seven to 15 films - out of the 80 to 100 produced annually in Spain - to qualify for access to the funds. In other words, that few Spanish films currently secure international releases - a sign of the times which both Costa and FAPAE acting president Eduardo Campoy highlighted as the impulse behind the new programme.