More than a year after the first containment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Nordic film industry is showing remarkable resilience and adaptability.
Only 2% of film projects have been canceled due to the pandemic, according to a report commissioned by the Nordisk Film & TV Fond – whose partners include national film institutes in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland – and the demand for popular Nordic drama series is higher than ever.
Governments in the Nordic countries quickly introduced a range of mitigation and financial measures, in addition to the generous subsidy system already in place, although there was early criticism that the aid, intended for businesses in general, was difficult to access for the many SMEs that make up the film industry in the Nordic region.
In most of the Nordic countries, filming resumed in May 2020, two months after the lockdown, thanks to the introduction of safe filming guidelines, lower infection rates, a relaxation of travel bans and strict protocols for the actors and the team.
“On the production side, the industry is doing well,” says Claus Ladegaard, CEO of the Danish Film Institute. “The companies complied with security protocols, which resulted in very few downtime. We produced more films in 2020 than the year before.
Iceland, the smallest of the Nordic countries, even experienced a mini filming boom when filming resumed thanks to its small population, low infection rate, attractive cinematic landscapes and 25% tax incentives. .
Sweden, on the other hand, has been hardest hit by the pandemic, despite fewer restrictive measures than the other Nordic countries.
“This reflects the nature of the Swedish projects, which were more ambitious, and shows how much they depend on international collaboration,” says report author Terje Gaustad of BI Norwegian Business School.
Overall, major television dramas, which require filming in different countries and have benefited the least from government mitigation measures compared to feature films and documentaries, have been hit hardest by the restrictive measures.
Reflecting a global trend, confinement has accelerated the switch from consumption to streaming. It has also stimulated the demand for quality Nordic drama series. Power stations including SF Studios now produce as many series as films.
The industry has responded by accelerating the transition to digital distribution and introducing more flexibility across all platforms.
“Local TV series continue to generate audiences, leading to fierce competition from major streamers and public broadcasters, who have had to strengthen their position in the market, especially through ‘unsacred’ alliances such as DR with Netflix on the latest Borgen series, or SVT and Netflix with the ‘Caliphate’ series, ”explains Annika Pham, editor-in-chief of Nordisk Film & TV Fond.
“Overall, the pandemic has boosted the penetration of SVOD in households in the Nordic countries to 60% on average in 2020, according to [media data analytics company] Mediavision, ”she says. “Nordic SVOD services have all increased their market share, and Nent Group’s streaming service Viaplay has further consolidated its pole position behind Netflix with more than 40 original productions slated for 2021.”
With theaters closed for almost half of the year, cinema admissions have fallen by more than 50% on average, but the crisis has had a positive effect on local production thanks to the absence of American blockbusters and local films. strong. Sweden, for example, doubled its market share and Denmark increased its box office revenue with hugely popular titles including Oscar-winning “Another Round” (originally intended for Cannes 2020) and “Riders of Justice “.
Although no cinema has closed in Denmark, they will have to rethink their role in the film food chain, according to Ladegaard, referring to the current conflict over hold periods between exhibitors and distributors.
“Some cinemas boycott films that appear on [U.S.] streaming platforms before the traditional four-month period, ”he said. “They have been extremely conservative about holdbacks and will have to negotiate solutions.”
While the pandemic has shown that the traditional Nordic model, based on an efficient public service support and collaboration system, is still fundamental to securing quality content, the industry is more than ever aware that it will have to cultivate its talents, offer a more flexible distribution. conditions and develop creative alliances in Europe to remain competitive.