While most of the world is on lockdown mode, Sweden has taken a different route, with schools, restaurants, some theaters and most public venues still open.
The Swedish prime minister, Stefan Löfven, has asked people to behave like “adults” and not give in to the panic, advising them to work from home, as well as banning gatherings of more than 50 people. But Löfven has not imposed drastic restrictions in Sweden as in other countries in Europe, such as its Nordic neighbors in Finland and Denmark, or France, Italy, Spain, and more recently the U.K.
Many movie theaters in Sweden are closed but some have remained open, notably theaters run by Svenska Bio, Sweden’s second biggest cinema chain, which also operates in Finland and Denmark.
Peter Fornstam, the CEO of Svenska Bio, said the group has kept theaters open in Sweden but with super low attendance and a cap of 50 admissions per auditorium. “We are open out of respect to society, our staff and films that were in release when the (outbreak of) Covid-19 started.” In Denmark and Finland, meanwhile, all theaters were forced to close due to a government order.
Fornstam said that although his cinemas are open in Sweden there were only “very few films from small distributors (which) serves only Stockholm.” The exhibitor said the lack of movies will lead them to close theaters across Sweden by mid-April but he intends on keeping those in Stockholm open.
He said he was expecting the Swedish and Finish governments to provide a “rescue package” for business owners, as has already been done in Denmark, where the government covers 80% of fixed costs and 75% of staff salaries for exhibitors.
“I think the Swedes believe they are immortals, in control of everything. It has to do with the fact that we never have problems, we haven’t had wars, and also we have great faith in our authorities, and health minister,” said Ulf Synnerholm, a producer at B-Reel, the leading Stockholm-based outfit behind “Midsommar.” “It is strange, maybe we’re crazy!” said Synnerholm.
That said, most companies in the Swedish film and TV industry, including B-Reel, have started asking all staffers to work from home like everywhere else.
Synnerholm said B-Reel, which has multiple offices across the globe, including in Los Angeles and London, is having virtual team meetings, and is focusing on development. The producer said the company fortunately didn’t have a film or TV series in production at present, but is being affected because the outfit’s business relies a lot on commercials, and brands are being hit by the crisis. The company also delayed a film that was scheduled to shoot in late summer in Greece to November.
Meanwhile, over at FLX, the Swedish production powerhouse owned by SF Studios, the managing director Pontus Edgren said the company had a “coronavirus impact on at least four productions.” FLX, which is frequently working with Netflix and notably produced “Quicksand” and “Love & Anarchy” (pictured) for the streamer, had three drama productions postponed, while some non-scripted shows have continued but “in a slim setting with adjustments on how to produce,” said Edgren.
With 3,700 cases of coronavirus and 110 deaths, the present situation in Sweden isn’t as alarming as it is in other countries, but in light of the skyrocketing death toll around the world, Sweden’s public opinion has started to shift. A petition by some 2,000 doctors, scientists and academics came out on Monday claiming that the Swedish government is leading the nation to “catastrophe,” and urging the minister to impose much stricter containment restrictions.
“There is a growing feeling here that the government is gambling, playing Russian roulette by allowing us to live somewhat normally when so many people are dying around the world,” said an executive at a Nordic production and distribution group.
“Instead of forbidding things, our government is putting it on the individuals to take the decision to self-quarantine which is what more and more people are choosing to do,” said the exec.