Nordic exhibs move toward mart unity.
COPENHAGEN A single cinema market in the Nordic territories has been a gleam in the eye of veteran homegrown hardtoppers for years, but it is the greenlighting of Svensk Filmindustri as the first foreign screener to enter Norway that finally is making the one-market dream a reality.
The market covers a population of some 22 million in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and until recently, plex building was pretty much an insular affair: SF and Sandrew Metronome battled it out in Sweden while Denmark's Nordisk and Finland's Finnkino dominated their respective markets. With nearly all of the cinemas owned by municipalities, Norway stayed out on the edge, for the most part unplexed: Only the largest cities could afford to throw up hardtops.
Since getting a greenlight to enter Norway, SF has taken over six screens in Tonsberg, south of Oslo, also opening up its Norwegian headquarters there. It also is set to begin building a seven-screener in Lillestrom, just north of Oslo, this summer and is making plans to build another seven-screener in Drammen.
Danish plexer Nordisk, hot on SF's heels, also has been given permission to build a seven-screener in Drammen, putting it in direct competition with SF, although Nordisk will be building via a joint venture with municipal authorities.
SF and Nordisk are looking for additional spots in Norway, while at the same time, SM continues to hold out for a primary site in Oslo: The cost of building inside Norway's capital city has driven other players to settle for what they can get outside the city.
The greenlighting of foreign plexers in Norway heralds a revolution in the territories' exhibition business.
"The cities still want to keep their hand in, but they also want to (be) state of the art, and most of the real know-how for that is outside of Norway," SF CEO Jon Bernhardsson notes.
Despite the fanfare over the invasion of Norway, SM was the first homegrown player to begin traversing the Nordic region. It acquired 12 screens in Denmark in 1997 when Sandrews and giant Norwegian media group Schibsted merged their theatrical interests.
SM is now busy adding to its 130-screen chain by finishing off its third site in Denmark and putting a second site in Finland on the drawing board. The group opened its first site in Finland last November, a 10-screener in Helsinki.
FINLAND Box office: $43 million Admissions: 6.4 million Screens: 331 Sites: 232 MAIN EXHIBITORS SCREENS SITES Finnkino 76 22 Sandrew Metronome 22 2
Source: Finnish Film Institute/Finnkino
NORWAY Box office: $72.6 million Admissions: 11.5 million Screens: 393 Sites: 260 MUNICIPAL CINEMAS SCREENS SITES Oslo 31 11 Bergen 14 2 Trondheim 13 2 Stavanger 8 1 Kristiansand 7 1
Source: Film Kino
SWEDEN Box office: $116 million Admissions: 15.8 million Screens: 1,167 Sites: 839 MAIN EXHIBITORS SCREENS SITES Svensk Filmindustri 176 35 Sandrew Metronome 106 28
Source: Swedish Film institute3