People all over the world are unhappy with Hollywood's domination of foreign box office. It gives audiences worse movies, which must appeal to all of the world. It influences a number of cultures to be more like American. And, most devastatingly, it ruins the production and the identity of national cinemas. Last year we saw a major protest in South Korea because the government was eliminating a quota that mandated theaters to show a certain amount of domestic product per year. This week there was another protest, this one in Spain, but it had an opposite demand. The Federation of Spanish Cinemas (like our own National Association of Theatre Owners) is upset with a proposed "Cinema Law", which is currently moving through the Spanish parliament, mandating that theaters must show one Spanish film for every three imports they show. As a sign of protest and criticism of the law, the Federation shut down 93% of the nation's cinemas Monday, though just for the one day.

Because there are about 230 theaters that aren't a part of the Federation, some people in Spain were able to find a movie if they really tried, but with around 3770 cinemas closed, I feel bad for anybody doing the trying. It wouldn't be surprising if representatives from Hollywood head over to Spain to support the protest, and maybe even bully convince the government, as they have a lot to lose from the law. The Federation apparently has a lot to lose, too, because Spanish films don't perform nearly as well at the box office as Hollywood fare. But last year the nation's top15 highest grossing films included three titles that were at least Spanish co-productions, with Alatriste being all the way up at number 4 (it does star Viggo Mortensen). In 2005, the same position held a Spanish film, Torrente 3: El Protector. Of course, this isn't that great considering most of the other titles are from Hollywood, and so Hollywood is where most of moviegoer's money is going. Plus, so far this year, the highest grossing Spanish film of 2007 (El Ekipo Ja) is all the way down at number 40.

I can understand both sides of the issue here, but I think quota laws are a good thing these days. The Spanish government needs to realize, though, that a quota can only work well if Spanish movies increase in quality, or at least in audience appeal. And the Federation of Spanish Cinemas needs to realize that Spanish movies won't be able to gain quality or appeal if they're ignored by cinemas. What needs to happen is Spain needs to get behind its national cinema, promote it and make it competitive with Hollywood. This is the country, after all, that has given us such diverse filmmakers as Almodóvar, Buñuel and Coixet and which has such great contemporary actors as Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and my personal favorite, Guillermo Toledo. As long as the nation puts some more money into film production, and maybe even woos more filmmakers like Milos Foreman, whose latest, Goya's Ghosts, is a Spanish production, then theater owners won't have to worry about showing Spanish films.