Exhibs, distribs in Norway balk at pact

Film rental prices could fall if deal is not made

AMSTERDAM — Some of the largest cinema owners in Norway are threatening to bail out of a price-fixing agreement between Norwegian cinema owners and distributors.

Owners and distributors on Nov. 9 will begin hammering out a new deal that sets the prices of film rental in the territory. If all sides fail to agree, the decades-old pact could be dismantled, and Norwegian rental prices will fall subject to market forces for the first time in decades.

More than 80% of all screens in Norway and 90% of all cinema revenue in the territory are owned and controlled by municipalities. Now, some of the largest of those cities, including capital city Oslo and the west coast municipality of Bergen, are said to be balking at inking a new deal unless rental prices are lowered.

First disagreement

Roar Svartberg, administrative manager for Film and Cinema, the national association of municipal cinemas, told Daily Variety it was “the first time there has been any real disagreement” among pact signatories. Both private cinema owners and Norwegian competition authorities have condemned the agreement as monopolistic and illegal, but it has so far remained in force.

The disenchantment with the pact comes at a time when the municipal system is under increasing pressure. Cities claim the Norwegian system makes possible cheaper cinema and the support of more artistic and cultural films, but a recent government-supported, U of Oslo study found that prices were no cheaper in Oslo than in Stockholm and Copenhagen, where private cinema prevails. The study also found that Oslo did not offer more cultural or artistic fare than the Danish or Swedish capital cities.

The disaffection also comes at a time when private cinema builders in Norway are becoming stronger. The county of Skedsmo, located east of Oslo, recently turned down a project by the City of Oslo, and instead greenlighted a multiscreener to be built by Svensk Filmindustri, making the giant Swedish exhib builder the first foreign hardtopper to break ground in Norway.