Women's theatre sells porn to bypass Spanish tax hike

Women's theatre sells porn to bypass Spanish tax hike
(L-R) A file picture taken on November 18, 2014 actresses Maria Herrero, Paloma de Pablo, Esther Acevedo and Karina Garantiva pose with old pornographic magazines at Nuevo Teatro Alcala in Madrid.

MADRID - An all-women theatre group has found an ingenious way around a sales tax hike that is crippling Spanish theatres - by selling pornography.

The group registered as a distributor of pornographic magazines earlier this year after getting hold of around 300 back issues of a discontinued erotic magazine.

Primas de Riesgo, or Risk Premium, now give a free ticket to their production of "The Prodigious Magician", a 17th-century drama by Pedro Calderon de la Barca, in Madrid, with every 16-euro ($20) porn magazine they sell.

With the sales tax on porn less than a fifth of that on plays, it allows them not only to keep ticket prices down but take a serious swipe at crisis-hit Spain's cultural policy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government raised sales tax on tickets to movies, plays and concerts from eight per cent to 21 per cent in September 2012 as part of its efforts to rein in the public deficit as unemployment rocketed. The sales tax on magazines remained at 4.0 per cent.

"We want people to ask what kind of a society makes this kind of decision. That they compare pornography and Calderon, who is Spain's Shakespeare, and reach their own conclusions," said the group's director, 34-year-old Karina Garantiva.

"We don't want subsidies, we are a private initiative. The best subsidies are fiscal measures that don't prevent me from doing my work," added Garantiva, who moved to Spain from Colombia 12 years ago.

'State of emergency'

Audiences at cultural events have slumped since the sales tax hike, according to a study by the National Federation of Theatre and Dance Business Associations (FAETEDA).

Figures show that in the first 12 months after it took effect audiences fell from 13.1 million to 9.3 million, a 29 per cent decline, according to the association.

Takings from cultural events in Spain during the same period fell by more than a quarter and 1,800 jobs in the sector were lost.

"It's a real state of emergency," said Jesus Cimarro, a Madrid theatre producer who heads the association.

The group wants the government to reduce the sales tax on theatre tickets to 10 per cent, the same rate as in Italy, which is also under pressure to reduce its public deficit.

It points out that the sales tax on cultural services in neighbouring France is only 5.5 per cent, while in Germany it is 7.0 per cent.

"Just with this measure (of reducing the tax), a medium or large theatre company could stage three or four more productions per year," said Cimarro.

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