A string of initiatives from distributors and VOD platforms have emerged this week to lessen revenue losses due to the coronavirus breakout and follow up cinemas shutdown.

In a ground-breaking move, NBCUniversal has teamed up with Viaplay and SF Anytime to launch Friday 20 March on the Nordic streamers mainstream films Emma, The Hunt and The Invisible Man - titles that were recently released in local cinemas - cutting the regulatory four months theatrical hold back period.  

Filippa Wallestam, EVP and Chief Content Officer at Viaplay-controlled Nent Group said: “I think it’s fantastic that NBCUniversal chooses to release their films via us [Viaplay] at an earlier date, at a time when cinemas are closing. It’s a way to test unchartered territory and to cut through the long-established cinema tradition, to give viewers the opportunity to watch the films they had planned to see. In every way, we want people to still have access to entertainment and culture, and initiatives such as these are now possible in the digital world.”

NBC Universal’s move follows the decision from Euforia Distribution in Norway to launch the IDFA selected documentary iHuman by Tonje Hessen straight to VOD on March 13 via Altibox, GET, Telenor, Viaplay and SF Anytime, instead of its scheduled cinema release the same date, due to cinema closures in Norway. 

Other independent Nordic distributors are considering breaking the traditional theatrical window, but only under today’s extraordinary circumstances. “For the moment we do not have any VOD-platform of our own, but we’re considering going out on digital with some titles earlier than usual, and certainly straight to VOD with some titles,” said Jakob Abrahamsson, CEO of Non-Stop Entertainment and managing director of Stockholm’s arthouse Capitol Cinema. 

Elsewhere, the Göteborg Film Festival’s Draken Film VOD Platform (backed by Nordisk Film & TV Fond) has teamed up with leading Swedish distributors to offer recent quality arthouse films for online viewing, with half the revenues from new subscribers to be re-injected into 17 independent Swedish arthouse cinemas. Each subscriber will be free to choose the cinema they want to support and during the first six months, half of the revenues will go directly to that cinema. 

The Göteborg Film Festival stressed that by using Draken Film, subscribers will also support the film distributors severely affected by the current situation.

Recent releases part of the deal include the Icelandic film A White, White Day by Hlynur Pálmason, France’s Portait of a Lady on Fire by Céline Sciamma and A Brother's Love by Mona Chokri, the US indie Give Me Liberty by Kirill Mikhanovsky and Saudi film The Perfect Candidate by Haifaa al-Mansour. 

Theatrical releases in the Nordics are in a havoc following local cinemas’ total shutdown in Denmark, and Norway since March 12 (for two weeks); Finland since March 16; reduced activities in the exhibition sector in Sweden since March 11 and in Iceland since March 16. 

Repercussions have been immediate on local box offices such as Norway where admissions have dropped 85% last weekend according to the Norwegian cinema association Film & Kino’s CEO Guttorm Petterson, and in Finland where 60% less tickets were sold compared to the previous weekend and to the previous year”, said his Finnish counterpart Tero Koistinen at Filmikamari.