Crime thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has become the most successful local film of all time at the Nordic box office.

Released by Nordisk Film, it has grossed $30.8m to date from 2.3 million admissions across the Nordic markets of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Iceland is yet to open. The second-highest grossing Nordic film in the region to date is Peter Flinth’s period action film Arn: The Knight Templar, which took $20.6m in 2007.

Directed by Danish film-maker Niels Arden Oplev, Dragon Tattoo is based on the first book in Swedish writer Stieg Larsson’s bestselling ‘Millennium’ trilogy, set in contemporary Sweden. It stars the popular Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist as a journalist hired by a wealthy businessman to investigate the disappearance of his niece 40 years earlier.

Shot in Swedish, Dragon Tattoo has been released with subtitles in the other Nordic territories. The film’s highest gross so far is in Denmark where it has taken $13.6m after seven weeks on release, accounting for one in every five cinema tickets sold for the first three months of 2009. Admissions are up 3% on the same period last year, according to the Danish Film Institute.

In Sweden, Dragon Tattoo has taken $11.2m after seven weeks on release. The film’s success has helped push the market share for local films for the first quarter of 2009 up 17% year on year to a very strong 40% in the territory, together with Charlotte Brandstrom’s Wallander - Hamden and Lukas Moodysson’s Mammoth.

The pan-Scandinavian success of Dragon Tattoo is unusual, with local features more often struggling to find audiences in their neighbouring territories (Arn: The Knight Templar made most of its worldwide gross from a very strong $15m Swedish run).

The huge popularity of Larsson’s books in the region has ensured a receptive audience; in Sweden alone, they have sold two million copies. Nordisk reported advance interest in the film far exceeded that of Arn: The Knight Templar, and even Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix and Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End.

Made for television

Dragon Tattoo was conceived and shot for television by Swedish production outfit Yellow Bird and financed by Swedish broadcaster SVT and Germany’s ZDF Enterprises. Originally, the aim was to recut the first film for theatrical release, with the second two books in the trilogy - The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest - only destined for television. But following the success of Dragon Tattoo, they will now both be re-edited for theatrical release.

Directed by Sweden’s Daniel Alfredson and produced alongside the first instalment, the second and third parts will be released by Nordisk throughout the Nordic region from mid-September to late November. SVT will broadcast the longer two-part TV versions of the films from February 2010.

Dragon Tattoo will roll out into Europe from the beginning of May, with releases in France (UGC Distribution), Italy (BIM Distribution), Belgium and Netherlands (Lumiere Distribution) as well as future releases in Spain, Poland and Switzerland.

Additional reporting by Jorn Rossing Jensen

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo$30.8m$13.6m$11.2m$5.5m$500,000
Arn: The Knight Templar$20.6m$2m$15.5m$2.7m$300,000
* Until April 14. Estimate. Source: Rentrak/Screen International