US blockbuster Signs may have dominated many of the bigger European territories, but in the Nordic countries two home grown titles are generating big returns.
In Denmark, Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier's new film Open Hearts (Elsker Dig For Evigt) (pictured), which screens in competition at San Sebastian this week, has again proven that local product can be more than a match for US blockbusters.
Despite hot September weather and competition from a national football match, it scored an impressive 45,442 admissions and $336,372 (DKR 2.5m) in its opening weekend - making it the highest grossing of the Danish Dogme titles, It has also scooped $912,662 in its first 10-days on release and outdone both Buena Vista International's Lilo & Stitch's 10-day gross of $440,089 and Signs' three week gross of $894,704.
Produced by the prolific Zentropa and distributed by major Nordisk Film, the drama's success highly favourable reviews and strong reputation of the film's director and actors (Mads Mikkelsen, Paprika Steen, Nikolai Lie Kaas). Despite its more serious tone Open Hearts has so far performed even better than Lone Scherfig's box-office Dogme darling Italian For Beginners, which ended up at a record 870,000 admissions - only 20,000 ahead of Susanne Bier's The One And Only from 1999. Other Dogme titles which did well at the local box-office include Thomas Vinterberg's Festen in 1998 and Soren Kragh-Jacobsen's Mifune in 1999.
Meanwhile in Iceland another Nordic film - Baltasar Kormakur's The Sea (Hafid) - has swept away all competition. Like Open Hearts, it too has sold around the world and plays in competition in San Sebastian this weekend.
Embraced by local critics and audiences alike last weekend The Sea sold 6,406 tickets and grossed $73,595 (ISK 6.4m) from its four screens. Boasting an impressive screen average of 1,602 admissions and $18,399 the film beat off Rob Cohen's US blockbuster XXX, starring Vin Diesel, which was forced into second place despite opening on two screens more. XXX scored 6,337 admissions and a three-day gross of $57,381 from six prints for an average of 1,056 admissions and $9,564 per screen. Another US opener Samfilm's romantic comedy Serving Sara, starring Matthew Perry and Elizabeth Hurley, had to settle for third, with its $21,707 gross 2,649 admissions paling next to The Sea while playing on the same amount of prints.
Kormakur's follow up to his acclaimed debut 101 Reykjavik, which was also among the top grossing local films of 2000, sees an Icelandic family brought together for the first time in years, when the father and undisputed ruler of a small fishing village decides to resign. The film was produced by Kormakur for his Blueeyes Productions and released in collaboration with Haskolabio in Iceland. The number of prints is now expected to be increased following the strong opening.