Norwegian films hit hard times

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Not even a movie about a local magazine’s racy coverage of the royal family managed to boost ticket sales at Norwegian cinemas last month. Norwegian film producers have not had a happy new year.

The movie hasn't sold well, but Ingar Helge Gimle has had good reviews for his role as now-Crown Princess Mette-Marit's father. PHOTO: Filmweb

The local newspapers have been full of articles and photos about the rush of Norwegian movies released before the Easter holidays. Many of the stories were promotional in nature, building up lots of hype about the movies opening in a cinema near their readers.

Topping the list was En helt vanlig dag på jobben (A completely normal day on the job), based on a book by a former reporter for Norwegian celebrity magazine Se og Hør (See and Hear). The book chronicled his often outrageous techniques for getting stories, which included paying interview subjects, cultivating the father of the woman who became Norway’s Crown Princess Mette-Marit and even paying for his mobile phone and travel.

Sven O Høiby became one of Se og Hør’s best sources of information about the former waitress and single mother, Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby, who now is a member of Norway’s royal family and mother of the heir to the throne. The elder Høiby also became friends with the reporter involved, who later clearly had second thoughts about the tactics used to exploit Høiby’s position.

The movie version received an enormous amount of pre-release coverage, including trailers showing Mette-Marit’s character screaming at the reporter, but box office sales have been disappointing. As of last week, only around 24,000 Norwegians had bought tickets to see the movie, which was released on March 12. At a showing during the Easter holiday week, the cinema was less than half-full.

All told, ticket sales to Norwegian films are down 42 percent from 2008 levels and fully 57 percent from 2009 sales. Film officials remain optimistic.

They point out that 2009 was an exceptional year, with the Norwegian film about war hero Max Manus breaking all earlier records. That film sold around 743,000 tickets, in a country of less than 5 million people.

In 2008, the local film industry did well with the historical Sami film Kautokeino-opprøret, about the uprising at Kautokeino. It sold around 320,000 ticktets.

So Norwegian film officials think those are hard acts to follow, and that ticket sales so far in 2010 aren’t as bad as they look.

“It’s much too early to reach any bombastic conclusions,” Nina Refseth of the Norwegian Film Institute told newspaper Aftenposten. “We are following the sales figures closely, and want Norwegian films to be seen by many.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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