Norway is the first country in the world to have digitised all of its film theatres. Jorn Rossing Jensen looks at the impact it is having on cinema-going in the territory

Norway has a unique exhibition sector. Just over 70% of its theatres are operated by the municipalities as public services, similar to libraries, and 100% are members of Norwegian cinema association, Film & Kino, which has just completed a national digital rollout — the first of its kind in the world.

Almost a year ahead of schedule, all of the country’s 410 screens have been digitally equipped. The $92m investment was covered by virtual print fee contracts with the local arms of the US studios, local distributors, Film & Kino and the exhibitors. Results may have started to show: Norwegian admissions in the first half of 2011 were up 4.2% on the same period in 2010.

“The digitisation has particularly benefited the small and mid-sized theatres, which have been able to offer more premieres, 3D screenings and an extended repertoire of films,” suggests Birgitte Langballe, head of commu­nications at Film & Kino.

‘The digitisation has particularly benefited the small and mid-sized theatres’

Birgitte Langballe, Film & Kino

Earlier this year, Norway’s largest media concern, Schibsted, phased out its interests in leading pan-Scandinavian distributor Sandrew Metronome.

As a result, the Norwegian operation has been taken over by the country’s biggest exhibitor, Oslo Kino, and renamed Norsk Filmdistribusjon. The Swedish arm was dismantled, the Danish one will close shortly, while the Finland branch has been sold to local distributor Future Film.

Norway top 10: Jan-June 2011

1Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (US)WDSMPI$8m482,998
2Tangled (US)WDSMPI$4.5m271.918
3The Hangover Part II (US)SF Norge$4.1m249,449
4The King’s Speech (UK)SF Norge$3.9m238,158
5Fast & Furious 5 (US)UIP$3.7m221,113
6Rio 3D (US)20th Century Fox$3.04m184,090
7King Of Devil’s Island (Nor)Euforia Film$3.03m183,939
8Black Swan (US)20th Century Fox$2.9m173,821
9Totally True Love (Nor)SF Norge$2.6m159,621
10Kung Fu Panda 2 3D (US)UIP$2.4m145,443

Source: Film & Kino. Gross based on an average ticket price of $16.50

Leading independent film buyers

SF Norge

Norway’s biggest distributor is owned by Sweden’s Bonnier Media Group, which also controls Swedish major Svensk Filmindustri.

To bolster its output deals with 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and MGM/Spyglass, SF Norge also buys prestige independent titles such as The King’s Speech. The company also releases in-house product and local pick-ups, including Totally True Love — the second-biggest local film of the first half of 2011 — and the upcoming Babycall. It also operates seven cinemas with a total of 46 screens.

Who to know: Guttorm Petterson, CEO; and Stockholm-based Robert Enmark, head of acquisitions.

The lowdown: “SF Norge covers most genres, from sci-fi to drama, from arthouse to comedy and action — and traditionally we are family-friendly,” says Petterson, whose most successful film of 2010 was Avatar, with Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 likely to finish top for SF Norge in 2011.

Contact: (47) 22 00 78 00

Nordisk Film Distribusjon

A subsidiary of Danish major Nordisk Film.

Who to know: Morten Christoffersen, CEO; and Peter Philipsen, general manager, independent acquisition and distribution; and Nordic acquisitions manager Lone Korslund (both based in Copenhagen).

The lowdown: In addition to a pipeline of heavyweight US product from output deals with Summit, Relativity Media and now David Linde’s new company Lava Bear Films, locally produced content is becoming increasingly important to Nordisk as it re-invests the profits from its US hits (including the Twilight franchise) in home-grown film-making.

Forthcoming releases include the anticipated Headhunters, which Nordisk pre-bought at script stage; and Fantefilm’s Jackpot and the adventure film Kon-tiki, both also pre-buys. Nordisk’s most successful local film of 2010 was family caper The Junior Olsen Gang And The Master Thief. European acquisitions include The Eagle and Biutiful.

Contact: (47) 21 54 47 00

Scanbox Entertainment Norway

Launched as a Danish video distributor in the 1980s, the Scanbox Entertainment Group now operates across all platforms throughout Scandinavia.

Following a restructuring period in 2009, the company is controlled by Icelandic Hollywood producer Joni Sighvatsson.

Who to know: Denmark-based Mikael Modig, CEO; Jim Frazee, acquisition executive.

The lowdown: “We complement strong product with large audience potential,” says Frazee. Scanbox buys 18-20 heavyweight indie and arthouse films a year for theatrical release and around 40 more for straight-to-DVD.

Recent acquisitions include Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, Francois Ozon’s Potiche, Lisa Azuelos’ LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady. The Twigson children’s franchise, from Paradox Productions, of which Scanbox is a co-owner, is among the company’s biggest local successes. In 2010, Twigson Ties The Knot saw more than 400,000 admissions. Twigson 3 will be released in September. Scanbox has also pre-bought Petter Naess’ Comrade from Zentropa Norway.

Contact: (47) 22 39 62 62

Norsk Filmdistribusjon

Formally the Norwegian arm of pan-Scandinavian distributor Sandrew Metronome, Norsk is now owned by Oslo Kino, Norway’s largest public cinema circuit.

Who to know: Frida Ohrvik, CEO.

The lowdown: Norsk is focusing on local product, working closely with producers including Motlys, Friland and Storm Rosenberg. “We will still invest in local films, and at the same time investigate the option of adding international product,” says Geir Bergkastet, CEO of Oslo Kino. Norsk’s local titles include Turn Me On, Goddammit; Oslo, August 31st; Sons Of Norway and Magic Silver 2 in 3D.

Contact: (47) 23 35 8 00


Set up as a foundation by the Norwegian Federation of Film Societies, the company is Norway’s foremost buyer of international arthouse product.

Who to know: Svend B Jensen, CEO; Oistein Refseth, film consultant.

The lowdown: “Our aim is to improve the conditions for artistically valuable films in Norway,” says Jensen.

Arthaus cherrypicks the finest arthouse cinema from around the world with one eye fixed on new Nordic cinema. Its upcoming slate is headed by Wim Wenders’ Pina and Cannes favourites The Kid With A Bike and Le Havre, as well as French hit Romantics Anonymous, Ruben Ostlund’s Swedish crime drama Play and Lee Chang-dong’s South Korean drama Poetry. Arthaus’ recent successful releases include Armadillo, Of Gods And Men and Winter’s Bone.

Contact: (47) 99 11 18 87