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Isleifur Thorhallsson • Distributor

European Distributors: Up Next! 2009 - Iceland


Isleifur Thorhallsson  • Distributor

Cineuropa: Could you give us some background information on Green Light Films?
Isleifur Thorhallsson: I founded Green Light Films six years ago and the company is now part of another bigger Icelandic distribution company: Sena. We are their arthouse label. We release close to one new film every two weeks. We also organise an annual film festival that gives us the opportunity to release ten films in one go. Our festival, Movie Days, takes place in April/May each year.

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We pick up European films, US independent films, feature films or documentaries. We don’t really have a distribution policy, but tend to acquire anything that we feel passionate about. We also follow true auteurs, like Ken Loach, Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar and Woody Allen.

What titles will you release before the end of 2009?
We will release Antichrist [+see also:
film review
interview: Lars von Trier
film profile
on September 25, then on October 6, God Bless Iceland, a creative documentary by Helga Felixson about the financial crisis in Iceland. We will also release the next Pedro Almodovar and Woody Allen titles.

Has cinema-going been affected by the financial crisis in Iceland?
The crisis hasn’t affected cinema-going as a whole, but it has had an impact on arthouse films. Releasing arthouse films was difficult before the financial crisis, now it’s even harder. People just want to be entertained and turn to Hollywood movies.

So what do you do to get an audience for your movies?
We know our specialised audience and take care of them as much as we can. We communicate with them through Facebook and keep them informed. We also use mainstream media (TV and print) for advertising, although our budgets remain modest. We try to be as innovative as possible within our restricted means. For instance, we recently launched a new distribution concept consisting of releasing a film for 14 days only. People then feel they have little time to see a film and tend to buy a ticket faster. We used this strategy for the US documentary The September Issue and for Tyson and it worked fine.

Can you make a profit out of the DVD market or a sale to a local broadcaster?
The DVD market is even tougher now for European films, but the Icelandic public broadcaster RUV buys almost everything from us and we often can make our money back by selling TV rights to them. We also get distribution grants from various institutions, such as Nordisk Film & TV Fond’s new High Five Distribution support that helps us release Nordic films.

What else could be done to improve the release of European films in Iceland?
There is an arthouse cinema in Reykjavik, the Rainbow cinema, with four screens and around 500 seats. It is currently run by Sena, but in a year its contract will expire. The idea would be to transform it into a major film house, to which arthouse distributors could have an equal access. It could also house the Icelandic film School, the film archives and the Icelandic Film Centre. It would be the first major film centre in downtown Reykjavik where the whole industry could meet and connect with an avid cinema audience. We’re discussing the idea with the government and with potential private investors.

What do you think of the European Distributor: Up Next initiative?
It’s a terrific idea to help us connect with other European distributors. We need to compare our working methods and get to know what’s happening in other EU countries.

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