Set up more than a century ago, Denmark’s Nordisk Film is a major regional producer and buyer of films. Now the company is looking to build on high-profile successes such as the Millennium trilogy.
When Danish cinema owner Ole Olsen bought a movie camera in 1906 and filmed in a meadow in Valby outside Copenhagen, he had little idea his small enterprise, Nordisk Films Kompagni, would still be active some 104 years later.
In 2010 Nordisk Film is still based in Valby, and is still using the logo of a polar bear on top of the world that Olsen had designed after his 1907 film, The Polar Bear Hunt. With operations in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, Nordisk is today one of the largest film companies in the region, with interests spanning film and TV production, distribution, exhibition, music and electronic games.
Although managing director Allan Mathson Hansen characterises 2009 as “a difficult year,” the company posted a $72.6m (DKR397m) profit - up 56% on 2008. This is mainly down to its Scandinavian distribution operations - Nordisk controlled 26% of the Scandinavian theatrical market last year and scored big hits with the Millennium trilogy - its 17 Danish multiplexes (it also has one in Norway) and proceeds from Sony’s PlayStation in Scandinavia, where Nordisk is the official distributor.
Encouraged by the result, Nordisk is ready to launch a “controlled offensive”, eyeing growth both at home and abroad. “Nordisk will still produce and distribute the best films in the Nordic countries. At the same time, we’re one of the few players with enough clout to back big projects with international potential,” explains Hansen. “We also see continuing growth in our theatrical operation in Denmark, where last year we sold more than 6 million tickets.”
Hansen says the company will build more cinemas and combine the traditional film experience with live entertainment. A third strategic focus is on PlayStation consoles and games. “We also see a large potential in managing Sony’s online sales and producing/distributing digital content for online platforms, both games and entertainment,” Hansen explains. “After all, Nordisk’s motto is, ‘We bring stories to life.’”
Since 1906, Nordisk Film has been Denmark’s leading producer of popular quality entertainment. The producer of Denmark’s first talkie and first colour films, the company also created the legendary Olsen Gang series which is shortly to be revived, fully animated, as The Olsen Gang Gets Polished - Denmark’s first feature in stereoscopic 3D.
Today Nordisk produces around 35 films per year, either in-house or as purchases from production outfits across the region partly owned or associated with Nordisk. These include Zentropa, in which Nordisk has a 50% stake, A. Film, Fine & Mellow, Neo Film, Maipo Film & TV Produksjon, StellaNova and Solar Films.
“Our trademark is still high-quality entertainment and our ambition is still to reach broad audiences,” says Thomas Heinesen, head of production and development at Nordisk Film Production. “Our in-house product is focused on the [local] market, since our stories are rooted in the real world right outside our windows. In the same way, the films from our outfits in the other parts of Scandinavia relate to their own realities.”
Heinesen points to Niels Arden Oplev’s Worlds Apart, Nils Malmros’ Aching Hearts and Tobias Lindholm and Michael Noer’s acclaimed prison drama, R, as examples of ambitious local dramas that have scored at the local box office.
Besides local fare, Nordisk is preparing a $19m adaption of Swedish author PO Enquist’s 1999 bestseller The Royal Physician’s Visit, to be directed by Lasse Hallstrom. The film will shoot from late 2010.
Another major project is Kon-Tiki, about Norwegian scientist Thor Heyerdahl’s 1947 expedition which saw him voyage 8,000km on a wooden raft. Scheduled to go into production this month, the $17.2m (€ 14m) 3D film will be co-produced by the UK’s Recorded Picture Company and will be directed by Norway’s Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning (Max Manus).
Kon-Tiki will be one of around 35 features which head of Nordic co-productions and acquisitions Lone Korslund delivers annually for theatrical and DVD distribution, either in Denmark or all of Scandinavia, or for international sales through TrustNordisk, the result of a 2008 merger between Trust Film Sales and Nordisk Film International Sales.
Besides Kon-Tiki, Korslund has high expectations for Mannerheim, Renny Harlin’s return to Finnish film-making, a new instalment of the Vares crime-thriller series from Solar Films, and Truth And Consequence, the next project from Swedish director Jan Troell. The company is also adapting a range of projects from the region’s growing number of successful crime writers, including projects based on books by Jussi Adler-Olsen, Jo Nesbo, Liza Marklund, Arne Dahl and Gunilla Bergstrom.
A further 35 international features for distribution by Nordisk are acquired annually by Peter Philipsen, general manager, independent acquisition and distribution. On the look-out for “genre-defined product with a strong cast”, Philipsen has output deals with Summit Entertainment and Relativity Media. Recent acquisitions include The Extraordinary Adventures Of Adele Blanc-Sec, Made In Dagenham, Nowhere Boy and The Eagle Of The Ninth.