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Multiplexes march on Scandinavia

Multiplex building continues unevenly across the Nordic territories, with Sweden, Iceland and even troubled Finland on an exhibition high, and Norway and Denmark snoozing along at a slower pace.

The biggest shakeup in the market is in Finland, where financially strapped Finnkino, the largest exhib in the country, was bought by newsstand chain Rautakirja, including all shares owned by Egmont and Nordisk.

The new Finnkino is touting major building and upgrading. “We really think it’s time to put some new life into exhibition,” says its president & CEO Elma Pehkonen-Rajamaki, who replaced Finnkino cofounder and ex-prexy Jukka Makela in a management shakeup by Rautakirja last February.

The Rautakirja executive board is expected to give the greenlight to an 18-screen, 4,400-seater currently on the drawing board for downtown Helsinki; a five to six-screener in Tampere and 10- to 12-screeners in Turku and Pory.

On top of that, Pehkonen says Finnkino is considering making significant investments in new sites or upgrades in the Baltic States. New parent Rautakirja has considerable kiosk interests in Estonia, and admissions there justify taking a new look at the region.

Pehkonen attributes Finland’s miserable admissions average – 1.1 trips a year per person, among the lowest in Europe – to the lack of comfort afforded by the nation’s theaters. Little money has been invested in the houses over the past 15 years.

Finnkino has slated $1 million for upgrading Helsinki alone, with renovation focused on sound technology, air conditioning and concessions.

In Sweden, Sandrews upped the stakes in its ongoing battle with Svensk Filmindustri with the opening of its new six-screen, 800-seat plex in Malmo. This has given Sandrews a base of 106 screens in 21 cities and 27 sites, and a 20% market share across Sweden. Market leader SF has some 186 screens, 31,389 seats and a fat 56% market share.

SF, however, by its own admission, was hurt when Sandrews opened its 10-screen, 1,200-seat Biopaletset in downtown Stockholm in 1991, walking away with 40% of the market that SF has never recaptured. With the bow of its Malmo plex last December and the 10-screen, 1,350-seat hard-top in Gothenberg later this year, Sandrews will have a 40% market share in Sweden’s three largest cities.

SF plans to open a 16-screen, 1,833-seat partial upgrade in Gothenberg on June 30, and a further 14-screen, 2,670-seat complex in downtown Stockholm. The company also plans to bow a third six-screen, 1,000-seat multiplex on the south side of Stockholm in spring of 1996.

The bitter battle between SF and Sandrews took a nasty turn last December when Sandrews filed an antitrust complaint with the Swedish government alleging SF was attempting to prevent Sandrews from getting hold of major Hollywood movies for its new sites.

Iceland’s Sam Film is one of the all-time champs in terms of acquiring Hollywood movies. Founder Arni Samuelsson is credited with boosting the nation’s per capita annual admissions average to a fat 8.2 in the capital city of Reykjavik- which houses 75% of the island’s population – and 5.4 for the country as a whole.

Sam Film holds a 50% market share, with 10 screens at four sites. Sam’s closest competitor is University Cinema, with five screens; other exhibs, Myndform, Skifan and Star, trail.

Compared with its other Nordic cousins, the Danish market is static, with few major plans for building, but there are some bright signs on the horizon. Admissions rose from 8.6 million in 1992 to 10.2 million in 1993.

In Norway, where municipals own 91% of hardtops, there’s little cash for major plex construction. Exhibs in Norway generally take a wait-and-see approach for any grand plex designs.

There are plans in the wings for a six-screen, 1,000-seat hardtop in the seaside town Sandvika, and Bergen’s much talked about plans for a 13-screen, 2,317-seater are still waiting in the wings for the right cash injection. A revamp of Oslo’s Klinginberg theater has also failed to get off the ground for financial reasons.

The main cinema viewing town, Oslo, has the most hard-tops, with the 1,700-seat Coliseum leading the pack. But Kristiansand, on the southern tip of the Norwegian peninsula, managed an increase from one screen to five last year.

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