Interview with Jorgen Stensland (Film&Kino)

Norway was the first country in the world to digitalize all its movie theatres in 2011. We discuss this with Jorgen Stensland from Film & Kino, the organization that was the engine of the conversion and came up with a special version of VPF combining public financing and private investments.

One of the risks of digitalization is a drop in the number of cinemas, since some may be unable to afford the costs.What has happened in Norway?

The number of cinemas has stayed more or less the same as it was before digitalization. Some cinemas have closed and some new cinemas, and above all new screens, have been planned.

We are probably talking of around 30 new screens in just a few years.

What have been the effects on audiences of introducing the new projection technologies?

There has been considerable growth in the number of spectators in small cinemas. The smallest theatres saw a 50% increase in admissions between 2010 and 2011. The category right after this experienced 30% growth. Larger cinemas have not recorded any increase: they already have the content they’re looking for.

As regards the offer, have any changes been noted?

In smaller cinemas the number of admissions on the first day and in the first week of screening rose by 6% in 2010, increasing to 39% in 2011. The percentage growth for the larger groups is 22% in 2010, rising to 66% in 2011.

Has this had any effect on the length of runs?

One result is a more rapid turnover in programming. Films are screened for a shorter period of time.

Has there been any variation in the total number of films distributed?

The number of new films is relatively stable. A little higher in 2011 than in 2010.This is mainly due to a high percentage of “local products” (Norwegian films). The total number of films distributed has dropped and the reason for this is that older films not in digital format are excluded from circulation. These films represent less than 1% of the total repertoire.For new films the numbers remain unchanged.

And as far as their countries of origin are concerned?

The percentage of American films dips slightly, whilst that of Norwegian and European films grows a little. Cinemas prove to be more active:more cinemas screen films and we see 10% more screenings in 2011 than in 2010. There are more screenings per film but shorter runs in cinemas.We have had more screenings in smaller cinemas (an increase of up to 25%), whilst little has changed in the larger theatres.

Have you noticed differences in market shares according to the nationality of films?

In terms of total admissions American films have experienced a slight dip but the Hollywood blockbusters maintain their leading position. It is the minor American films that have lost audiences.

One of our expectations with respect to digitalization was that lower-budget films would have better chances.Has there been any evidence of this yet?

Art-house movies were screened in more cinemas in 2011 than in 2010: there were more screenings and larger audiences. The largest number of admissions was recorded mainly in medium-large cinemas but the picture is more or less the same as it was prior to digitalization.