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Major deals shore up distribution ops

Nordic indies have strengthened their markets by currying cozy relationship with the majors and, in more recent years, picking up and producing as many local titles as they can.

Svensk Filmindustri’s (SF) deal with Fox, Sandrew Metronome’s with Warner Bros., and Nordisk Film’s pacts with Columbia TriStar have all pushed profits for these three Scandi distribbers.

While Nordisk lost some ground when its nine-year vid deal with Columbia TriStar ended in 2003, president Kenneth Plummer sees the company’s pack of local titles — fed by output deals with Zentropa, Nimbus and Finland’s Matila-Rohr — as laying a foundation for solid future.

In the past couple of years, local pics have taken anywhere from 10%-30% of the box office, usually with Denmark pulling the biggest share. “We don’t see the demand for local films going down, and currently one-third of every ticket sold for local film in the Nordic territory now ends up in our coffers,” Plummer adds.

Nordisk’s pickup of such U.S. titles as Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator” and Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” is also expected to boost the distrib, while SF is relying on “Sin City,” “The Sea Inside” and “Red Dust” to further feed revenues.

Danish music publishing outfit Bellevue Entertaiment bought Scanbox, which had been in insolvency protection since 2001, to form the Scanbox Entertainment Group. It controls more than 1,700 titles, mostly international, as well as a hefty vid and music catalog and is expected to be a formidable rival to SF and Nordisk.

In Sweden, Sonet is the leading distrib of local pics with some 10-12 titles and a 60% share of the local pic market. Company plans to beef up acquisitions, but at a later date, says managing director Peter Possne.

Among other changes in the region, Warners will take over vid distribution from Sandrew Metronome but the theatrical deal remains business as usual, according to execs. Ditto for Nordisk Film’s theatrical pact with Columbia TriStar. And SF is renegotiating a deal with Fox that expires at the end of the year.

In the wake of the impending sale of Sandrew Metronome’s theatrical circuit in Sweden to SF, there has been speculation that Sandrew may back out of distribution as well. However, CEO Morten Kongrod denies this, despite the exit of his distrib topper, Staffan Wallhem, to Sonet.

Nordic at a glance
B.O.: $350 million*
Top title: “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (SF/Myndform;$96 million*)
Recent pickups:
“Domino” (Nordisk)
“Mysterious Skin” (Arthaus)
“Sin City” (SF)
“Silver City” (Millennium)

Titles at AFM
Miss Sweden: Alexandra Dahlstrom (“Show Me Love”) returns as a 19-year-old who goes against her activist and socially conscious peer group to become Sweden’s version of a Valley Girl. (Non-Stop Sales)
Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands: Danish helmer Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest thriller and the follow-up to his audacious debut, “Pusher,” about drugs and crime in Denmark. (Nordisk)
Vares — Private Eye: Touted as Finland’s answer to “Pulp Fiction,” pic chronicles a middle aged former cop turned detective who mostly conducts his business from a local pub. (Birch Tree Entertainment)

*estimated cume through September 2004 for Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland

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