Warner Lusomundo Sogecable, the three-way Spanish exhibition venture, is to invest Euros 65m-70m in expanding its cinema estate, building six new multiplexes with a total 62 screens before the summer of 2004.
The company currently owns and operates ten multiplexes with 104 screens in Spain. The most recent, a nine-screen state-of-the-art complex in Las Palmas, opened on June 21 to coincide with the local release of Spider-Man.
WLS general manager Tomas Naranjo told Screen International that the original development plan for up to 20 sites in the territory was still in place "we believe there could be space in the market - but what's happening is that the market itself is setting the tempo."
Naranjo describes Spain's exhibition sector as "very mature." Spain more than doubled its screen count between 1990 and 2000 and currently has more than 3,000 screens in over 880 cinemas. "There are saturation problems in just a few areas right now," Naranjo says, "but in the mid-term - in a year or a year and a half - there will be saturation problems in a lot of cities."
Nevertheless, growth continues with most major exhibitors in Spain planning to open new multiplexes in the next couple of years. Like WLS, they are relying on a continuation of Spaniards' high rate of cinema attendance - the highest in Europe with the exception of Iceland - and the high number of film releases - factors which Naranjo cites as both the market's attractions and the source of its biggest problems.