Homegrown pix lure auds

Across Scandinavia, local fare draws boffo box office

Market share is important to all Euro filmmakers, not just for economic reasons but out of national pride as well. In France, it was for many years a fetish. Then, in the late ‘80s, Hollywood’s market share overtook Gaul’s and, suddenly, the statistic was less mentioned.

A thousand or so miles to the north, tiny Finland, population 5.2 million, has been tackling the Tinseltown invasion with determina-tion and a considerable degree of success. Having languished below 10% for most of the last decade (1996’s 3.7% was the low point), Finnish films’ share of the local market rocketed to 22% in 2003, when local thriller “Bad Boys — A True Story” easily outpaced “The Lord of the Rings.” Indeed, the film’s final admission tally equaled three-quarters of the total for “LOTR” parts two and three combined. What’s more, seven out of the 10 top films of all time are local, with patriotic war drama “The Unknown Soldier” (1955) pulling in almost twice as many filmgoers as “Titanic.”

Finland is not alone among the Nordic countries in having an audience hungry for local stories. In Sweden, the market share has tended to hover a point or two either side of 20% — not much in comparison with the U.S. average of 70%, but pretty good when you consider that the Swedish film business has been a little shaky of late. Only 20 to 30 local films are released each year.

Norway has been equally successful in terms of market share, but had the interesting experience a few years back of its films — notably hit comedy “Elling” (2001), which spawned two sequels and is being remade in Hollywood — proving too successful. The local support system was designed to encourage the makers of hit films to make more. The problem was the payout required in the wake of several hits more or less drained the film fund coffers, making it briefly impossible to support other productions.

The real success story, however, is Denmark. After the first 14 weeks of 2005, local films have enjoyed a tasty 38.5% slice of box office.

“In a good year, we’d expect approximately 25%,” says Maja Dyekjær Giese, head of feature film promotion at the Danish Film Institute. “Even 20% would be OK, so 38.5% is exceptionally high.”

Giese singles out such films as Tomas Villum Jensen’s “The Sun King” (326,107 admissions as of April 8), about a young unem-ployed man who seduces a 40-year-old millionaire and gets more than he bargained for; Nikolaj Arcel’s political thriller “King’s Game” (558,019); and Susanne Bier’s “Brothers” (430,011).

“It’s because the films that have been released this year really have a strong Danish character,” says Giese, “and take their themes seriously. Adults have been going back to the movies this year, because the cinemas are showing films that have been made for them.”