This is the very beginning of a series of posts looking at different territories, starting with what is the most familiar to me, my home country, Finland.
Overview of Country Profile:
Finland is a Nordic country with a population of 5,5 million. The Finnish film industry is small but relatively healthy. Domestic films take 29,9% of the market share. In 2015 there were in total 202 first releases (Hautamäki and Sotaniemi, 2016).
Prospective growth is limited in Finland. The population is small and screen penetration is high. There are some areas in the North where there aren’t any cinemas but equally the population is very sparse; geographically Finland is a third larger than the UK, however it’s total population is significantly less than that of London alone.
The Finnish Film Fund (SES) is the key player in the market. Its main role is to support film production and distribution in Finland. Traditionally the share of SES finance is 30% of a film’s production budget and it is uncommon for feature films, especially narratives to gain theatrical exhibition without the support of SES. The role of hard money finance in the Finnish film industry is limited, if not nonexistent. Majority of the SES finance is gathered from the profits from the national lottery. (Honkanen, 2009) (Ses.fi, 2017)
Both film production and exhibition is highly concentrated to Helsinki.
Source: (Hautamäki and Sotaniemi, 2016)
Finland has two native languages, Finnish and Swedish. In cinemas, foreign films are shown in their native language with Finnish and Swedish subtitles. In TV, usually only Finnish subtitles are applied. Family films and animations make an exception; they are usually dubbed but are often made available in both dubbed and original language versions.
Finnish language and culture is very isolated in regards to the rest of the Nordic countries and the rest of western Europe. The archetypical lifestyle is a slow, quiet and hardworking one and will power is a trait deserving of praise. In the late 90s and early 00s a lot of social realist dramas were made about this lifestyle and for many years local films struggled to draw audiences. Finnish films had depressing and melancholic reputation that did not resonate with the audiences.
American and UK films, genre films and even Scandinavian crime films were more popular. Only during the last decade, local films have started to gain bigger audiences again as more diverse film are been made. The biggest hits of the recent years include 21 Ways to Ruin a Marriage and Reunion both of which received close to 500,000 viewers. Both films have spun sequels which focus on similar themes i.e middle-age adults dwelling in meaningless relationships.
In 2008 24% of Finns said that they never go to see a Finnish film. In 2015, the percentage was 13% (SES. 2015).
11% of the population see a film in the cinema at least once a month. There has been an increase in cinema audiences where 76% of the population said they went to see a film at least once a year in 2015 compared to 66% in 2013. (SES, 2015)
54% of audiences decide they will see a certain film 2-7 days before going to see it (Elokuvateattereiden Yleisöt - tutkimus 2016, 2016).
In 2015 women were more active cinemagoers than men. Approximately 35 % of cinema audiences were men, and 65% women. In terms of age, 34-44 year olds were most active audiences. In smaller cities, cinema audiences were older with more 55+ year-olds attending the cinema than in bigger cities. Across the country, audiences’ age demographic was as follows:
Source: (Elokuvateattereiden Yleisöt - tutkimus 2016, 2016)
Most popular films of 2015 was Spectre. Interestingly it outperformed Star Wars by 200.000 viewers, which indicates an older audience in general, as mentioned above. Audience sizes for the biggest releases range from 100.000-700.000.
When asked, what kind of film would one prefer to see more in their local cinemas, 36% said action and adventure films and 27% said romantic comedies.
In 2015 internet was the most popular way to find out about new releases. After that newspapers, TV and recommendations from friends were mentioned. Key reasons for choosing a film, were theme (91%), recommendations (77%), actors (73%), reviews (57%).
Key reasons for attending cinemas were ‘because films look better on the big screen’ (55%), ‘to be able to escape the everyday life’ (48%) and ‘wanting to see the film right away’ (39%). Especially men were attracted to cinema by the big screen (64%) where as women saw it as an experience (50%). Also, notably, 52% of 15-24 year olds, said the primary reason for going to cinema was to see the film right away.
Legal, Financial and business practice
Transparency of business practice is very good in Finland. Film budgets are traditionally between 1,3-1,5 million euros. The finances are traditionally put together from three main sources; the Finnish Film Foundation (SES), distributor’s minimum guarantees and TV pre-sales, most often to the national broadcaster YLE. These three sources traditionally cover around 70-80% of the budget, creating a need for alternative funding that can either be gathered from partners, advertisement, self-finance or international finance and co-productions. The US model of hard money and investments are almost unheard of in the country. Also, the Finnish government is only just now introducing tax breaks for film productions. Historically that has drove a lot of local productions to other countries.
Other sources of soft money include Nordisk Film and TV Fund, EU programs such as EURIMAGES, the centre for audiovisual culture (AVEK) and various other foundations. The producers quilt of Finland is demanding a raise in the SES finance available, to compete with the rest of the Nordic countries, that have both bigger budgets and bigger share in government film grants.
Considering the local business practices and the non-existence of private investments, the film financing and banking are transparent.
Piracy is a prevalent problem in Finland. It is mainly focused in illegal downloading of copyrighted content. Selling of physical pirated copies of films is rare in Finland. Attitude towards piracy is negative throughout the population and most people (63%) hope that internet sites allowing piracy would be banned. 91% of Finns agree that piracy should be dealt with.
Yet, 71 % of 15-16-year-olds download illegal content from online. A third of the same age group download films once a week. On the contrary, over 50-year-olds hardly download legal content at all.
82% of the people who downloaded content, downloads music and 57% downloads films. The effect of piracy to the society is about 350 million euros a year. (Antipiracy.fi, 2017)
Regulatory Frameworks for Film Industry
Considering the share of local content Finland is a little bit behind Europe and Scandinavia. In Finland, approximately 20,4% of films watched in theatres are local films, compared to 23,1% in Sweden, 25% in Denmark and 21,4% in Norway (Alanen, 2012). The highest percentage for national cinema is in France where French films bring around 40% of the box office.
In TV, considering the 12 most popular TV channels, 39% of content was local. There is no regulation in regards to the percentage of Finnish content for TV channels for commercial channels. The national broadcaster YLE must however, broadcast 50% European content (Toiskallio and Laukkanen, 2013).
Maturity of Exhibition Infrastructure
Exhibition is dominated by a single operator, Finnkino, that covers over 70% of the exhibition market share. Finnkino is also vertically integrated as it has its own distribution arm with links to Sony Paramount. There are only 5 multiplexes in the country, two of which operate in Helsinki, yet these multiplexes deliver 48% of all cinema audiences in the country. Therefore, cinema going is highly concentrated to densely populated areas, though growth prospects in rural areas are limited due to sparse population. 80% of all cinemas in the country have only 1 screen. (Honkanen, 2009) (Finnkino.fi, 2017).
Digital Trends and consumption patterns
Likewise, elsewhere in the Europe, the DVD sales are shrinking in Finland. Practically all DVD rental companies have shot down, and VOD platforms are taking over.
Besides Netflix and iTunes, local VOD platforms include SVOD platform HBO Nordic, TVOD platform Elisa Viihde (run by the Nordic telecommunications, ICT and online services company Elisa), SVOD platform Ruutu.fi, SVOD platform ViaPlay, TVOD Watson, and TVOD cdon.com
Similarly, the Finnish national broadcaster Yle runs a similar service to iPlayer, called Yle Areena.
There have been only a few titles released using a multi-platform model. There might be potential to try various strategies in terms of releasing the film simultaneously on VOD or doing VOD previews, or even a free TV previews that might spark interest in a specific title. However, as the exhibition market is highly controlled by a single operator Finnkino, they have a lot of power in determining the rules of windows. (Koponen, 2015)
Broadband penetration is very high in Finland. In 2010 Finland became the first country in the world to make access to broadband a legal right to every citizen. This means that the local telecommunications companies are obligated to provide all residents with broadband that runs at a minimum 1Mbps speed (BBC, 2010). In 2015, roughly 52% of Finnish households had access to fast internet, with a minimum speed of 100 Mbps (Viestintavirasto.fi, 2017).
Ses.fi. (2017). Suomen elokuvasäätiö: Etusivu. [online] Available at: http://ses.fi/etusivu/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].
Sffilm.fi. (2017). SF Studios. [online] Available at: http://www.sffilm.fi/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].
Toiskallio, M. and Laukkanen, M. (2013). Audiovisuallisenalan tuottajakentän toimialakartoitus. 1st ed. [ebook] Helsinki, p.21. Available at: http://www.prefix.fi/docs/Toimialakartoitus.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].
Viestintavirasto.fi. (2017). Supply of fast broadband in Finland. [online] Available at: https://www.viestintavirasto.fi/en/statisticsandreports/statistics/2013/availabilityofhighspeedbroadbandconnections.html [Accessed 6 Jan. 2017].