Scandi film giants butt heads over local pix

Nordisk, Svensk aim for similar goals

Scandinavia’s largest and oldest film firms, Nordisk Film and Svensk Filmindustri (SF), are fierce rivals, and they are likely to be clashing some more as their strategies for growth are similar.

Set to ring in its 100th birthday next year, Nordisk, with its core businesses of games, film and TV, is the electronic entertainment wing of Egmont. Egmont, which generates $1.4 billion in revenue a year, is the business arm of the kid-friendly Egmont Foundation.

The 86-year-old SF is the film and TV production side of Bonnier, a 201-year-old family-run media biz that reaps $2.8 billion in revenue a year.

SF isn’t shy about its strategy: supplementing the flow from Hollywood studios by funding local pics and international co-productions to feed its distribution outlets. It is looking to expand its 25% share, across film, video and DVD, of the Nordic distrib market.

Says CEO Rasmus Ramstad, “Our main plan of action is to pick up high volumes of foreign films. We have partnerships with such outfits as Fox, New Line and Revolution Studios, among others. This is in combination with an aggressive strategy toward local product.”

SF’s partnerships with Hollywood studios has boosted its revs, which are still being driven, post-“The Lord of the Rings,” by DVD sales.

Its production slate calls for 25 Nordic pics a year, a combo of its own output and co-productions. Company has been co-producing in Denmark and Norway for some time, although it has just launched production outfits in both territories (it set up a unit in Finland more than a year ago). Upcoming titles include five English-language co-productions with U.K. partners.

SF is in the midst of a major campaign to develop local-language productions. “It is a big problem that local films do not travel well in Scandinavia, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says SF head of production Johan Mardell. “We have in development right now a number of projects which will work in two to four Nordic territories. It could considerably pump up our revenues on a local level.”

SF is investing quite a bit of effort and coin on a pack of five bigscreen crime movies, and 14 TV films being developed with German partners. The properties include adaptations of titles from international bestselling scribe Henning Mankell and popular Swedish crime author Hakim Nessar. They are just about as hot as you can get, and they have huge potential outside of Scandinavia in the future, adds Mardell.

PlayStation vidgames have pumped up Nordisk’s bottom line and eased pressure on the film distrib biz. The launch of the PS Portable console will provide more opportunities in the sector.

Nordisk adds about 150 titles a year to its 2,500-strong catalog, and has strategic alliances with Zentropa, Nimbus and M&M Prods. in Denmark, and Mattila Rohr in Finland to augment its local offerings. Last year’s crop included 113 international titles, mainly U.S. indies, and 58 local Nordic titles.

Nordisk and SF butt heads in the local production arena too. Nordisk plans to crank out a dozen or so pics a year, with about half coming from Denmark and the rest from its units in Norway and Sweden. It intends to back 12-18 co-productions targeted at either local, pan-Scandi, Euro or U.S. markets. Three English-language co-productions are also being thrown into the mix.

Says Kim Magnussen, Nordisk’s director of film and TV, “Everyone knows if you want titles to really travel, they need to be in English.”

Both firms are scooping up rights across all platforms, and have dipped toes into the video-on-demand and mobile markets.

Ken Plummer, a distrib vet who helped put Nordisk back on an even keel after a series of setbacks, will move to Danish pubcaster Danmarks Radio in October, but both he and CEO Steffen Kragh are predicting a smooth transition.