FNE together with Europa Distribution continues its Distributor of the Month series in recognition of the hard work and excellence of European distributors and the common problems they face - especially in the transition to digitalisation.
We choose a distributor from each country covered by FNE each month. We look at the challenges and the successes faced by those distributors who are members of Europa Distribution with a special series of interviews that offer insights that other distributors of European films can benefit from and a platform for the exchange of ideas.
This month we focus on Scanbox Entertainment Finland and we speak to Marketing Manager Tommi Salmelainen. Scanbox Entertainment was founded in 1980 and has grown from a small Danish video distributor to the third biggest Nordic film and entertainment distributor. In 2011 Scanbox acquired Panvision's DVD branch, strengthening its distribution platforms especially in Sweden and Finland.
Scanbox Entertainment acquires rights for independent feature films, documentaries, TV-series and alternative content and distributes content across all windows. The company currently has international output deals with Luc Besson's EuropaCorp and Nicholas Winding Refn's Space Rocket Nation. Local output deals include Helsinki Filmi in Finland and ASA Film and Four Fiction in Denmark.
FNE: How does the market in your country differ from other countries? What is specific about the Finnish market? How is independent distribution doing in your market today?
Tommi Salmelainen: I feel the Finns are pretty mainstream filmgoers. Local titles with well-known local stars and international blockbusters also work here. Occasionally it seems that because of our minor, geographically isolated location we're a bit behind with some global movie hits and trends especially with the films that are a bit harder to get into than the huge Hollywood stuff. Of course the Finnish film market is quite small, too. We only watch approximately 1.4 films a year per capita (other Scandinavian countries are 1.9 to 2.7) meaning that there unfortunately isn't too much business with the minority independent film lovers.
But of course it's important to have a great selection of films.
We're also a bit behind the increasing trend of the 50+ audience, but I´m positive we'll be reaching that group in no time.
FNE: How competitive is your market for European films (national and non-national)?
T.S.: Quite often European films are considered as “quality films,” in good and bad ways. That's because with their smaller budgets they're forced to concentrate a bit more on the story and occasionally have the courage to avoid the clichés. There's always a social need for great films despite the production company or country and especially the success of the French film Intouchables showed that even the mainstream filmgoer's love towards a good film won't reflect only the American highly advertised blockbusters.
FNE: What kind of films seem to work well with audiences in your market?
T.S.: Though the Finns are quite often seen as a bit of a weird, melancholy and dark nation we like to entertain ourselves by watching the same films as other countries do. Of course, some other countries might see our local successes as a bit too “Finnish” that only strengthen the stereotype of us as a bit of a violent and drunken nation. That's probably the main reason the global audience still has difficulty in finding Finnish productions as something to entertain them.
FNE: What are the major areas that you focus on? (theatrical/DVD/VOD/TV distribution, production, exhibition...)
T.S.: As I said, we're a bit behind the global trends and we're still actually doing a decent business with DVD's and Blu-rays though the sales are decreasing. I feel we'll be facing the same lack of format sales in a few years that the other countries are going through now. The VOD is of course growing rapidly but still isn't bringing in enough income. As a distributor our main task is still to handle every format and window to get the film to find its audience and bring a profit.
FNE: What is your film acquisition policy?
T.S.: I´m personally not a part of our acquisition team, but I'm sure we're trying to get our hands on great, potentially profitable films at a decent price. If a distributor says he's not in it for the money, he's either crazy or lying, or just sees himself as a cultural contributor, which is cool, too.
FNE: What films have been your biggest hits?
T.S.: Local films like Gloriously Wasted and Heart of a Lion and international films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and films by Woody Allen overall, Iron Lady and Intouchables.
FNE: What are your upcoming releases and how will you promote them?
T.S.: We´ll start the year 2014 with some amazing high potential quality releases with a super cast and script, such as the true story based Philomena starring Judy Dench and Steve Coogan, Mandela with Idris Elba and August: Osage County starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts among other stars. Of course, Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman has great expectations, too.
The promotion strategy will pretty much go the same way as always. Find the right target group and estimates and choose the right platforms and content to get the word out to the people.