Cinemas in Spain

History and programming

Cinemas in Spain

Spain has over 2,000 cinemas ( cines) nationwide and around 1,300 cinema clubs. Although it has lost a lot of its former popularity to television and many cinemas have closed in the last few decades, cinema remains reasonably popular in Spain where over 10 per cent of adults see a film each week.

In major cities, most cinemas have three or four performances ( sesiones) a day, at two or three hour intervals, e.g. 4.30pm, 6.30pm, 8.30pm and 10.30pm (some have an extra performance on Saturdays and public holidays ( festivos), shown in listings as S y F).

On certain days, e.g. Wednesdays in Madrid (designated the día del espectador or ‘spectator’s day’), tickets are reduced for all performances. Other discounts are available for students, pensioners and children under 13. Some cinemas also have a ‘couple’s day’ ( día de la pareja), usually midweek when couples pay half-price.

Most cinemas are fairly small, although multi-screen cinemas (e.g. with 15 screens) have sprung up all over the country, particularly in shopping centres. There are outdoor and drive-in cinemas in the summer in many areas and free films are also sponsored in some cities, e.g. in the Parque del Retiro in Madrid.

Most foreign films are dubbed into Spanish (including foreign names), usually indicated by the letters V.E. ( versión española). However, a number of private theatres in the major cities and resort towns specialise in screening original soundtrack films, indicated by the letters V.O. ( versión original), with Spanish subtitles ( subtitulada). Restricted films that aren’t recommended for children (minors) less than a certain age (e.g. 13 or 18) are listed as no recomendada para menores de 13/18 años, while a film with no age restrictions is classified as todos los públicos. Cinema programmes are published in daily newspapers and entertainment guides.

There has been a revival of Spanish films since censorship ended and some 20 per cent of films shown in Spain are now Spanish-made. Spain stages some 40 film festivals each year, notably in Barcelona, Gijón, Madrid, San Sebastian and Vallodolid. However, Spanish film makers (like the French) are under serious threat from US-made films, which dominate most cinemas, particularly those owned by US-companies.

In order to protect its indigenous film industry, the Spanish government introduced a highly unpopular quota system in 1994, forcing cinemas to show European films at least one day in three, the government introduced a new ruling that all television companies must invest a certain amount of their profit in film-making in Spain.

Pedro Almodóvar is Spain’s most famous film director and his numerous films depicting complex relationships in often surrealist and kitsch settings, are known the world over. In 2000 his film, All About My Mother ( Todo sobre mi madre) won the Oscar for the best foreign film and in 2006 his latest film, Return ( Volver), won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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