Svensk Filmindustri Norge (SF Norge), the Norwegian arm of Scandinavian distributor Svensk Filmindustri, has unveiled plans to move into exhibition by opening cinemas in seven Norwegian cities.

SF Norge plans to run the chain in partnership with local authorities which have traditionally been responsible for operating cinemas in Norway. The distributor, which revealed its plans at Norway's Tromso International Film Festival last week, said it is in talks with local authorities about securing their co-operation and has started the search for appropriate sites. A six or seven screen multiplex is planned for the centre of Oslo by October 2002 and the cities of Tromso, Bergen, Lillestrom, Trondheim, Sandnes and Drammen have also been targeted.

The European Economic Area agreement, which Norway signed in 1993, over-ruled local legislation that prevented Norwegian film distributors from operating a cinema. Svensk Filmindustri has since been granted a licence to open a cinema in Tonsberg. However local distributors have been hesitant to enter the exhibition arena due to the expense of building their own cinemas and ambiguity over the licence issue.

SF Norge marketing manager Jan Mehlum believes that in the current political climate, the situation has changed: "We believe we will be granted licences because politicians are concerned about city development and customer availability," Mehlum said. "Some local cinemas have become limited companies so they're in the open market and EU companies can compete with them."