Is your new title of Nordic Head of Sales and Distribution a totally new position at SF?
Antti Toiviainen: Yes, it’s totally new. Before SF was a decentralised distribution organisation. Now, I will coordinate all regional distribution arms and supervise all theatrical, home entertainment, digital distribution plus international sales.
So veteran sales executive Ann-Kristin Westerberg and her sales team will now report to you?
AT: Yes that’s part of the strategy. I will also work very closely with Charlotta Denward, Nordic Head of Production to centralise all information so that we can then decide on a Nordic distribution strategy for our films.
What other impact will the centralisation of SF’s activities have on the local branches and employees?
AT: We are first establishing our Nordic division, then we will deal with the regional structure. My position in Finland will be filled by a new person. Our purpose is not to sack people but to remodel things, and in fact hire more people. That’s why I am quite excited about the new management put together by our CEO Jonas Fors.
What is your vision to support smaller Nordic arthouse films in a highly competitive and polarised market?
AT: If we look at Finland, it’s a challenge because we don’t have arthouse cinema chains, so arthouse films are really struggling. Finnkino [now part of the Nordic Cinema Group since its merger with SF Bio last year] is playing arthouse films, but in a multiplex, not in an arthouse environment. In the other Nordic countries, the situation is a bit better. The question of distribution of smaller arthouse films will be a hot topic for us at Svensk, especially in relation to our own Nordic productions. We will definitely focus on the way to improve the market share for our Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish films in the neighbouring countries.
Do you believe in alternative or more flexible distribution initiatives than the current linear model?
AT: The fact is that film business – especially distribution and exhibition - is changing rapidly. We tend to apply two-three years later what happens in the US. Our challenge is to bring together players from the entire cinema chain –producers, distributors, exhibitors – to see how we can improve cinema revenues. It’s better to take the right decision now than when it’s too late. The biggest issue in Scandinavia is piracy. The stricter we are with windows, the more we are supporting piracy.
But you do believe in cinema as the number one place to watch movies…
AT: What cinema has to offer is the environment, the feeling, the taste, the smell, something you can’t get online. Youngsters in particular want once in a life time experiences. Why wouldn’t they come to cinemas, the way they go to music concerts? Getting people to come to cinemas is where our energy should focus on. That’s a more fruitful battle than defending windows.
I'd also like to add that film watching is higher than ever before. People are watching films in several different formats and we have to be better in making films available in all distribution channels at the right time, which should be defined by consumers, not by the old physical and mental intrastructure of distribution outlets. We should allow and encourage people watch films in whatever format they which, as long it's legally done.