Katrina Mathsson and Marie Booberg • Distributors, Folkets Bio
by Annika Pham
31/08/2010 - Founded in 1973, Folkets Bio has played a key role in establishing European auteurs in Sweden, including François Truffaut and Federico Fellini, and continues to this day to bring Swedish audiences some of the world’s top emerging and established filmmakers, such as Michael Haneke and Aki Kaurismäki. With its arthouse cinema chain, Folkets Bio provides an essential platform for quality films and is at the forefront of digital cinema conversion. In Stockholm, Cineuropa spoke to the company’s head of acquisitions, Marie Booberg, and Katrina Mathsson, head of marketing and distribution.
Cineuropa: What is your current position on the arthouse market and how have you been able to stay in business for so long?
Marie Booberg: It’s really thanks to our own cinemas. We have 15 venues. The closure of our competitor Triangle Film opened up some space in the market for us, both on the acquisitions and distribution side. Today, we’re the biggest of the smallest distributors. Last year was really good and the first six months of 2010 were also very good. According to statistics from the Swedish Film Institute, we had 96,000 admissions in the first half of 2010, NonStop Entertainment had 59,000, and Noble 62,000.
How many Swedish and non-Swedish films do you have in your line up?
MB: We have around 15 foreign and half a dozen Scandinavian films. We try to follow auteurs such as Aki Kaurismäki, the Dardenne brothers and Michael Haneke, and also pick up new directors. We’re proud to have talented first-time directors, even if after their first experience with us they sometimes go elsewhere. We’ve been around a long time so sales agents trust and know us. We work very often with Films Distribution, Les Films du Losange and The Match Factory.
What about Swedish films?
MB: Over the last two years, we’ve had a lot of Swedish documentaries and now feature films. This is new for us. The market is opening up with debut features made by small production companies. For instance, we recently released Guidance [trailer] and Miss Kicki [trailer].
What are your typical release patterns and marketing campaigns?
Katrina Mathsson: We can put together bigger releases now thanks to our digitally equipped cinemas. We used to release an arthouse film on two-three prints. Now we go out with seven-nine prints. We always have two prints at least in Stockholm. We put together the usual poster and advertising campaigns. We work a lot with trailers on a specialised website, Preview Network, that takes them and then dispatches them. Our films are of course review-led, and having talent support the films makes a big difference.
How is the current market for European films in Sweden?
KM: There is an audience for French and Spanish films, but it’s very difficult for some Eastern European films. Heavy films from difficult countries in strange languages…it’s a real challenge! We’ve had a few Swedish co-productions with Eastern European countries recently, such as the Bulgarian film Eastern Plays [trailer, film focus]. We’ve also picked up the Romanian film If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle [trailer], co-produced with Sweden.
What about Nordic films?
MB: It’s perhaps even harder, apart from children’s films, which have a real tradition and audience in Sweden. Norway suffers from a negative image. With Denmark, we need more popular quality TV series to whet the appetites of Swedish audiences for Danish features, otherwise they’ll turn to English-language films. Television buyers are not very keen on Nordic films and we have to work hard to convince them.
Upcoming Nordic films that we’ve picked up for distribution include Steam of Life from Finland, and Vegas [trailer], The Angel [trailer] and Upperdog [trailer] from Norway. We also have the Danish films Armadillo [trailer, film focus] and Super Brother [trailer] and the animated film The Apple & the Worm [trailer].
How do you attract local audiences to your cinemas?
MB: Now that there are more platforms to choose from, the image and programming of each cinema is even more important in pulling people out of their homes. We want to make cinema a special meeting place, create events. We create small festivals, invite directors, we have seminars.
We’re also at the forefront of digital cinema technology. We’ve equipped eight of our cinemas with 1.4K projector beams. Digital technology is great for quality and programming. Since we’ve had it, it’s been a revolution for all our films, especially documentaries. We can have as many prints as we want now, whereas before there was only one 35mm print. It’s a huge difference. We try to convince everyone else and we have the support of the MEDIA Programme.
KM: Digital technology is a new way to work and the transition of some cinemas from 35mm to digital takes time. But it is opening up new distribution and promotion opportunities.