Slow but promising cinema-going reboot in Finland

12 JUNE 2020

Finnkino Plaza / PHOTO: Finnkino

Kick-off is expected early July when all cinemas including the major chain Finnkino will resume screenings.

After a two-month and a half lockdown, cinemas reopened in Finland June 1st thanks to the relaxing of social distancing rules, making it possible for public events with 50-500 attendees to unspool, under special arrangements to avoid the spread of Covid-19. 

However the exhibition sector is having a very slow reawakening, as explained by the Finnish Film Foundation’s Head of Exhibition and Distribution Ilmari Arnkil.

“There are 39 cinemas that have at least one screening this week. This time last year there were 115 cinemas in operation,” he said. “Altogether there are 176 cinemas in Finland and currently 22% of them have opened, but since all the multiplexes are still closed, the number of active screens is less than 13% of the total amount of screens. The ones that have opened are small independent cinemas, most of which are located outside the biggest cities,” he notes.

The biggest circuit, the AMC/Odeon Cinema Group-owned Finnkino, controlling around 67% of the theatrical market, is set to reopen three of its 16 cinemas June 24 and the rest of its venues the following couple of weeks.

The second biggest chain BioRex - owned by Svenska Bio - plans to reopen two cinemas on June 26 and the remaining eight July 3rd. Ditto for the third largest chain - the family run Savon Kinot with its six cinemas.

All three circuits have lined-up their reopening closer to July 17 when the first Hollywood tentpole film will premiere: Warner Bros’ Tenet by Christopher Nolan.

Finnkino’s sales director Hannele Wolf-Mannila told “The reopening of our cinemas will be dependent on having a strong line-up of films in place for our guests to enjoy. Currently this begins with Tenet and Mulan. We are working very closely with our distribution partners to ensure they have adequate coverage for their titles when we reopen. We are focused on building an exciting line-up of films which will include new premieres, films that were forced off screen prematurely by the temporary closures, and hopefully some old favourites,” she said, adding that Finnkino’s auditorium capacity will be reduced to 30-50% to let people apply the 1-2 meters social distancing.

Aku Jaakkola who runs BioRex and chairs the Finnish Cinema Exhibitors Association add: “Today restrictions are quite good, as the health authorities let us decide how to handle social distancing. The problem is content,” he says, stressing that the first new releases will play only early July. “That said, I am confident that people who love movies will gradually be back in the cinemas and in the cafeterias,” he added. 

The first film with Finnish creative talents on board set to open after the lockdown is the Estonia/Finnish comedy Goodbye Soviet Union. The film by first-timer Lauri Randla was originally due to open late March, and has been rescheduled by B-Plan Distribution for July 10. “We were already able to create a substantial demand for the film at the beginning of the year so there are now many people anxiously waiting to see the film,” said B-Plan head of marketing Helena Mielonen.


Slow but promising cinema-going reboot in Finland

Goodbye Soviet Union Nägemiseni Nsvl / PHOTO: Plan B

“We also see that the cinemas need new, diverse and also local content when cinemas reopen, so we hope that this film can respond to the demand,” she said.

Karatina Nyman, managing director at Nordisk Film Distribution Finland and chairwoman of the board at the Finnish Distributors Association underlines the need for quality fresh content to attract cinemagoers. “A lucrative line-up is of course essential to get the audience back to the cinemas after this long break, and especially a line-up with good mix of both local and international films”, she said. “Now when selected cinemas have opened we have started with relaunches, which will be followed by new releases already at the end of July and early August.”

Nordisk Film’s first new release after the cinemas reopening is the Swedish comedy drama My Father Marianne starring Rolf Lassgård. “I look forward to introducing this heart-warming film to Finnish audiences,” said Nyman.

The first Finnish film under the Nordisk Film banner will be Eden Ulla Heikkilä (August 7), followed by Jenni Toivoniemi’s Games People Play (August 21). “We feel that our two local August releases have the freshness and joie de vivre we need at the moment, to celebrate the cinematic experience after this long pause,” said Nyman.


Slow but promising cinema-going reboot in Finland

Games People Play / PHOTO: Level K

She goes on: “Our August releases will start more or less on the original release date, but naturally the safety measures and capacity restrictions do create a new element into a launch, which we will need to consider. However, the audience’s eagerness to return to cinemas depends on the films we are able to provide, and the local films play a big role in the health of the Finnish cinema market”, she says.

Nordisk Film’s Finnish slate for the rest of the year includes a large range of titles:

  • the mainstream drama comedy Forest Giant by Ville Jankeri, September 11.
  • the anticipated Tove Jansson biopic Tove by Zaida Bergroth, September 30.
  • the latest children’s film in the popular ‘Ricky Rapper’ franchise Ricky Rapper and the Wrong Vincent, October 9.
  • the arthouse film Any Day Now by first timer Hamy Ramezan, October 9.
  • The Tale of a Sleeping Giant - third instalment in the popular nature documentaries by Marko Röhr, December.
  • the dramedy 70 is Just a Number by mainstream-oriented director Johanna Vuoksenmaa, January 1st, 2021.

Meanwhile the government’s €1m extra package to help smaller/medium cinemas and festivals survive the Covid-19 crisis has just been allocated by the Finnish Film Foundation (FFF) to 77 applicants of which 74 are cinemas.

“It was the Finnish government’s wish to support in priority the smaller cinemas, most vulnerable financially because of the coronavirus,” said the Finnish Film Foundation’s CEO Lasse Saarinen, who was pleased to mention that “almost everyone who submitted applications received support.”

The Finnish Film Foundation has also just received an extra Covid-19 rescue package of a healthy €5 million from the government, (see separate story: click here) this time earmarked towards film and TV production. “We received this extra cash - representing a quarter of the Foundation’s current production budget - to boost employment in the audiovisual sector,” stressed Saarinen.

Tero Koistinen, director of the Finnish Chamber of Films, said he welcomes the “surprisingly high” extra Covid-19 rescue package from the government. “We need good movies - both local and international - to get the industry going,” he said, stressing that hadn’t Covid-19 stalled the entire country, 2020 would probably have been the best cinema-going year in nearly 30 years.

Top selling Finnish films of the year include Ladies of Steel (246,265 admissions), the biopic Helene (177,316), the family film Hayflower, Quiltshoe and the Feisty First-Grader (176,370), and the comedy The Renovation (156,678).