Peter Toiviainen, head of marketing for Sandrew Metronome Finland, has been working in Finnish distribution for 23 years.

The company has had notable successes with European pics in past years. “The Queen,” for example, had a stellar run in 2007, harvesting more than 100,000 admissions from 10 prints and ending up as No. 14 on that year’s box office chart.

Although Finnish pics command more than a fifth of the local B.O. market share, Finn auds are great lovers of French pics, Toiviainen says, and British and Swedish films are also popular.

Among Euro auteurs, Pedro Almodovar has one of the largest followings in the country. “Volver” took more than 80,000 admissions. “Broken Embraces” just opened on eight prints.

The lack of arthouse theaters in Finland inhibits the success of European titles, giving them little time to build word of mouth. “Specialty European films have long legs and need more time. That’s why we have to build the release strategy very carefully,” Toiviainen says. An emphasis is put on the timing of the release and on publicity, with the quality of the films underscored. A Cannes berth is a big plus, Toiviainen says, both as a guarantee of the pic’s quality and the press coverage it generates. Local fest exposure also is important, with the main events being August’s Espoo Cine and September’s Helsinki Film Festival.

As well as support for European pics from the Media Program, the distrib is able to tap funds from the Nordic Film and TV Foundation — for Nordic pics — and the Finnish Film Foundation, which gives coin for select arthouse pics.

One challenge all distribs in Finland face is the pull of the smallscreen. “Our biggest competitors are not the other film companies, it is the TV,” he says. The five free-to-air channels in Finland show up to 30 features a week.

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