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Nordic Box Office 2023: Slow Gains, With ‘Barbie’ and Top-Solid Norwegian, Icelandic Market Shares

2023 was a year of sustained gains year-on-year across the Nordics, although moviegoing is still down 23%-30% from pre-COVID times. The summer was exceptional thanks to the “Barbenheimer” mania that boosted all five Nordic countries. Iceland was the only territory where “Oppenheimer” ranked third, after the local comedy “Wild Game” one of three Icelandic titles that enabled local fare to jump 123% in box office for a 14% market share.

Norway enjoyed a solid year and a 27% market share for domestic fare, led by three blockbusters based on popular IPs, including the top seller “Christmas at Cobble Street.”

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In Finland, the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon was perhaps the strongest among the Nordic nations, making July the biggest ever in Finnish cinema history. Also notable was the success of Aki Kaurismäki’s “Fallen Leaves,” the fourth biggest hit of the year, which helped local titles secure a 23.4% share.
Less glorious were results in Denmark where overall admissions edged down 2% from 2022 and local films, usually around 30%, had to make do with a 25% market share. Meanwhile in Sweden attendance climbed 8% from 2022, but unlike in the rest of the Nordics, not one single local title made it in the Top 10: Swedish films ended up with a disappointing 17.1% market share.

DENMARK

The first full year without cinema shutdown since COVID, 2023 was nevertheless a rather disappointing moviegoing year, especially for local fare, and although the market showed signs of recovery, figures were still noticeably lower than in pre-pandemic times.

Overall admissions, just above 10 million, were 2% down from 2022, and 23% lower compared to pre-COVID (2018-2019), where admissions averaged 13.2 million, according to estimates from the Danish Film Institute, based on figures from the distributors and cinema guilds FAFID and Danske Biografer respectively. Revenue-wise, total box office, at around DKK 1 billion ($146.8 million), was just 1% above 2022 levels, but down 13% from pre-COVID.

The chairman of FAFID Frederik Malling Juul, applauded the end of the U.S. strike, that had added anxiety to an already stressed post-pandemic market.

“We see the consequences of production gaps in the film industry, where Hollywood strikes only worsened the situation for an already narrow pipeline of American films. The latter traditionally account for more than 30 % of the cinema market in Denmark. Hence, we were pleased when the strikes ended,” he said.

Indeed, the biggest audience pullers of 2023 were the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon that accounted for over 1.1 million admissions, “an impressive feat considering that one in 10 tickets sold this year was for one of the two films [“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer”] said Martin Kofoed Hansen, data analyst at the Danish Film Institute.

The third biggest seller was “Avatar 2: The Way of Water”, released mid-Dec 2022, which sold an extra 399,000 tickets to reach a 880,00 total tally. U.S. titles ended up locking a 68% market share, a normal level after the COVID years of American blockbuster famine.

On the domestic front, 2023 was a tougher year. The territory that usually boasts the biggest audience for local fare – around 30% – had to do with 25% from 2.51 million ticket sales, a 17% drop compared to 2022 and 31% from pre-COVID.

“This is quite lower than in recent years despite many titles on release, and ticket sales for Danish movies in 2023 were the lowest in the past five years,” commented Martin Kofoed Hansen, a data specialist at the Danish Film Institute.

Four local titles – all Nordisk Film releases – still made it in the top 10. At No. 1 was the comedy “The Land of Short Sentences” from regular comedy hit creator Hella Joof, based on the best-selling book of the same name by Stine Pilgaard, which ranked No. 4, ahead of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

The second biggest Danish hit was Before It Ends,” a WWII drama based on true events by Anders Walter. “This is a subject that Danish audiences clearly continue to love,” said Hansen, who mentioned that the film drew 300,000 viewers in the theaters and another 300,000 on television.

Two other period movies were strong magnets: This year’s Danish Oscar entry “The Promised Land” starring Mads Mikkelsen and “The Kiss” by Bille August, freely adapted from the Stefan Zweig’s novel “Beware of Pity.”

Looking at 2024, the year looks promising for local titles as ticket sales by end of January were already 33% up from the same period in 2023. Released late December, Ole Bornedal’s “Nightwatch – Demons Are Forever,” a sequel to his 1994 classic chiller, should find a spot in the top Danish titles of the year, with 206,000 admissions so far and still counting. Other anticipated local releases include “Boundless, the latest screen adaptation of crime author Jussi Adler-Olsen’s novel, helmed by “Banshee”’s Ole Christian Madsen.

Top 10 films Denmark 2023

(Ranking based on admissions (Title, distributor, admissions, B.O., release date)

(Source Danish Film Distributors’ Association FAFID)

  1. “Barbie,” Warner Bros, 639,999, DKK 67.5 million ($9.87 million), July 20, 2023

  2. “Oppenheimer,” UIP, 469,999, DKK 62.9 million ($9.18 million), July 20, .2023

  3. “Avatar 2: The Way of Water,” Disney, 399,999, DKK 56.5 million ($8.2 million), Dec. 14, 2022

  4. “The Land of Short Sentences,” Nordisk Film, 351,000, DKK43.2 million ($4.99 million), Feb. 2, 2023

  5. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” UIP, 297,000, DKK 29.3 million ($4.2 million), April 6, 2023

  6. “Before It Ends,” Nordisk Film, 291,000, DKK 200.7 million ($3 million), Aug. 24, 2023

  7. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” Disney, 267,000, DKK 33.6 million) ($4.9 million)

  8. “The Promised Land,* Nordisk Film, 245,000, 245,000, DKK 24.6 million, ($ 3.59 million), Oct. 5, 2023

  9. “The Kiss”, Nordisk Film, 222,000, DKK 14.9 million ($2.1 million), Feb. 23, 2023

  10. “Mission Impossible 7-Dead Reckoning Part 1”, UIP, 200,000, DKK 25.8 million ($3.76 million), July 12, 2023
    (*still on release)

The Land of Short Sentences
The Land of Short Sentences

FINLAND

2023 saw moviegoing in Finland surge to 7.2 million, the highest level in the past decade, up 23.1% from 2022 although still 15.4% below pre-COVID, according to the Finnish Film Foundation. Box office followed the same upward trend, up nearly 14% to €93.47 million ($101.8 million). The biggest boost was “Barbie”, which soared at 680,000 ticket sales worth over €9.4 million ($10.2 million) making it the eleventh biggest-selling movie since 1974 cinema records and biggest movie ever helmed by a woman.

According to Petri Peltonen, statistics and research specialist at the Finnish Film Foundation, the Greta Gerwig movie conquered the whole territory of Finland, with the exception of the province of southern Ostrobothnia.

In second place, “Oppenheimer” which opened simultaneously with “Barbie” on July 21, pulled roughly €6.3 million ($6.87 million) from 395,321 ticket sales, followed by “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.” With 287,000 ticket sales worth €3.48 million ($3.8 million), the video game adaptation became the biggest animated hit of 2023.

All in all, US fare secured a 66.8% market share, up from last year’s 53.7%. Thanks to ‘Barbenheimer’, July 2023 was the best ever in Finnish cinema history. Domestic titles meanwhile garnered 1.6 million admissions, up 7.2% from 2022, although the 23.4% market share was the second lowest in the last decade with only 2019 lower with 17%.

The biggest local hit was Aki Kaurismäki’s multi-prized “Fallen Leaves,” with nearly 255,000 admissions, the fourth biggest movie of 2023 and best home-turf result ever for the legendary Finnish helmer.

Three other Finnish movies ranked in the top 10: the 9th instalment in the popular kids’ franchise “Ricky Rapper at the Wild Machine”; Jalmari Helander’s actioner “Sisu” (which punched a phenomenal $14.3 million worldwide), and the drama “Lapua 1976” by newcomer Toni Kurkimäki. Produced outside the usual subsidy system in Finland, the true story of a factory accident that shook small town of Lapua in 1976 turned into the year’s biggest sleeper, securing a ninth spot in the top 10, above “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.”

Top 10 Finland 2023

(Ranking based on admissions (title, distributor, admissions, B.O., release date)

(Source Finnish Film Foundation)

  1. “Barbie,” Warner Bros, 680,207, €9.4 million ($10.2 million), July 21, 2023

  2. “Oppenheimer,” Finnikino, 395,321, €6.31 million ($6.87 million), July 21, 2023

  3. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” Finnkino, 286,546, €3.48 million ($3.8 million), April 6, 2023

  4. “Fallen Leaves,” B-Plan, 254,717, €3.17 million ($3.45 million), Sept. 15, 2023

  5. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” Walt Disney, 229,506, €3.39 million ($3.7 million), June 28, 2023

  6. “Rocky Rapper and the Wild Machine,” Nordisk Film, 205,475, €2.3 million ($2.51 million), Feb. 17, 2023

  7. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Walt Disney, 199,814, €3 million ($3.29 million), Dec. 14, 2022

  8. “Sisu,” Nordisk Film, 182,771, €2.39 million ($2.6 million), Sept. 01, 2023

  9. “Lapua 1976,” Finnkino, 171, 549, €2.19 million ($2.39 million), Sept. 01, 2023

  10. “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Finnkino, 169,445, €1.97 million ($2.15 million), Dec. 23, 2022.

Fallen Leaves
Fallen Leaves

ICELAND

Icelanders turned up en masse in 2023 to watch Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” the top selling movie of the year, with over ISK 134 million ($982,000) and 80,072 ticket sales. But unlike in the rest of the Nordics, the second biggest grosser wasn’t Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” but the local pic “Wild Game,” the Icelandic version of Italian hit “Perfetti sconosciuti”.

The dark comedy, starring some of Iceland’s biggest names (Gisli Örn Gardarsson, Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Aníta Briem, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), grossed over ISK 115 million (around $837,000) from 56,000 admissions.

While in 2022 only one local movie entered the final top 10 chart, besides “Wild Game,” another two titles hit the jackpot in 2023: low- budget chiller “Cold” by new helmer Erlingur Óttar Thoroddsen and, at the other end go the scale, the mega-European thriller “Operation Napoleon,” shot mostly in English. The adaptation of master of crime Arnaldur Indriðason’s best-selling novel which sold nearly 30,000 tickets confirmed helmer Óskar Þór Axelsson as one of Iceland’s most bankable names, after his earlier noir hits “Black’s Game” and “I Remember You”.

“Icelandic films made a major comeback in 2023 and jumped 123% in box office [to over ISK 285 million or $2 million] compared to 2022,” noted Daníel Trautason, head of the local rights owners’ association Frísk.

Describing the overall 2023 movie market, the Icelandic movie expert said the trend was for big movies, and the “Barbenheimer” mania resulted in the biggest opening weekend of all time in Icelandic cinemas,” he said.

U.S fare kept their heavy 80% of the market admission-wise, while Icelandic titles climbed from 10% in 2022 to 14%.

Overall box office jumped 32.5% to ISK 1,69 billion ($ 12.3 million).

“In 2023, Icelandic cinema guests were more than ready to return to the cinemas after a slow return post-COVID. And for the first time since the pandemic, more than 1 million guests paid a visit to the cinemas,” said Trautason.

Top 10 films Iceland 2023

Ranking based on box office (title, distributor, B.O., admissions, release date)

  1. “Barbie,” Samfilm, ISK 134,840,766, ($982,000), 80,072, July 20, 2023

  2. “Wild Game,” Max Dreifing, ISK 114,971,434 ($838,000), 56,236, Jan.6, 2023

  3. “Oppenheimer,” Myndform, ISK 76,440,595 ($557,000), 41,415, July, 19, 2023

  4. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” Myndform, 72,523,627 ($529,000), April 5, 2023

  5. “Cold,” Max Dreifing, ISK 61,256,065 ($446,000), 29,700, Sept. 1, 2023

  6. “Operation Napoleon,” Samfilm, ISK 59,864,296 ($436,000), 29,338, Feb. 3, 2023

  7. “Avatar-The Way of Water,” Samfilm, ISK 57,274,911 ($417,000), 31,281, Dec 16, 2022

  8. “Guardians of the Galaxy-Vol 3,” Samfilm, ISK 51,777,091 ($377,000), 30,296, May 3rd, 2023

  9. “Spider-Man-Across the Spider-Verse,” Max Dreifing, ISK 48,540,377 ($353,000), 29,529, May 31st, 2023

  10. “Paw Patrol-The Mighty Movie,” Samfilm, ISK 47,528,592 ($346,000), 31,195, Sept. 29, 2023

Wild Game
Wild Game

NORWAY

The movie market in Norway continues to recover from the pandemic years and growth in 2023 was visible across the entire market but, as explained by Espen Pedersen, head of the cinema association Film & Kino, the ride was a shaky one.

“Moviegoing in 2023 was like a roller coaster with alternating high peaks and deep valleys, very dependent on when both Norwegian and American blockbusters were released,” he noted. “The goal for 2023 was to sell more than 10 million tickets in Norway. Yet, due to, among other things, the strike in Hollywood which led to the postponement of the launch of several films, we unfortunately lacked a couple of major film titles to reach this goal. The average before COVID is 11.8 million cinema tickets sold annually in Norway, so we still have a long way to go, but I believe that in a few years we will be back at similar numbers and perhaps even better,” he said.

Zooming in on the numbers, indeed 9.3 million tickets were sold in 2023 (up 6.7% from 2022 with an almost extra 600,000 tickets), and box office tally reached NOKK 1.2 billion ($117.56 million), up 10.8%. July peaked thanks to the U.S. tentpoles “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” and “Mission Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part 1” that ranked No.1, No.2 and No.5, respectively in the final top chart.

Hollywood fare commanded a solid 63.4% of the market, the highest share since 2019.

On the home front, the box office jumped 14.7% to an estimated NOK 287.8 million gross ($27.5 million) from more than 2.5 million admissions. Thanks to these healthy numbers, Norwegian films commanded 27% of the market.

“Over the past 10 years, there have only been three years in which we have sold more cinema tickets for Norwegian films,” said Pedersen who even claimed that Norwegian films “saved the year for Norwegian cinemas.”

Four local titles, distributed by Nordisk Film, stood strong in the top 10 otherwise dominated by U.S. fare. As always, Norway delivered three family blockbusters based on celebrated IPs. “Christmas on Cobbler Street,” based on a popular 1979 TV series, was the biggest local title and fourth biggest seller of 2023.
Qvisten Animation Studios’ “Three Robbers and a Lion” and “The Brothers Gruff Go to Splash World” were also safe bets for Christmas 2022 and 2023 respectively, while the WWII drama “Narvik: Hitler’s First Defeat” by Erik Skjoldbjærg, which opened later 2022, ranked fifth in the top 10, 2023. The feature was released by Netflix in the rest of the world.

Worth highlighting as well is the good score for this year’s Norwegian Oscar entry, Margreth Olin’s documentary “Songs of Earth,” watched by 94,000 Norwegians.

For 2024, Pedersen expects rougher times, due to the Hollywood strikes which led to delays in releases until 2025, and a drop in local blockbusters. “Norwegian films are very important for Norwegian cinemas, and with fewer major local films, we fear that the decline in Norway may be even worse than in other countries,” he said.

Top 10 Norway 2023

(Ranking based on admissions (title, distributor, admissions, B.O., release date)

(Source Film & Kino)

  1. “Barbie,” Warner Bros, 62,419, NOK 95 million ($9 million), July 21, 2023

  2. “Oppenheimer,” UIP, 519,218, NOK 84 million ($8 million), July 21, 2023

  3. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” UIP, 421,792, NOK 53 million ($5 million), April 5, 2023

  4. “Christmas on Cobbler Street,” Nordisk Film, 405,341, NOK 46 million ($4.3 million), Nov. 10, 2023

  5. “Narvik-Hitler’s First Defeat,” Nordisk Film, 334,022, NOK 44 million ($ 4.1 million), Dec 25, 2022

  6. “Avatar-the Way of Water,” Disney, 323,671, NOK 54 million ($5.1 million), Dec. 14, 2022

  7. “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning – Part One,” UIP, 291,305, NOK46 million ($4.58 million), July 12, 2023

  8. “Three Robbers and a Lion,” Nordisk Film, 205,090, NOK 25 million ($2.3 million), Dec 26, 2022

  9. “Wonka,” Warner, 174,953, NOK 22 million ($2 million), Dec 8, 2023

  10. “The Brothers Gruff Go to Splash World,” Nordisk Film, 173, 503, NOK 22 million ($2 million), Dec 25, 2023

Christmas on Cobbler Street
Christmas on Cobbler Street

SWEDEN

Moviegoing in Sweden was up 8% from 2022 to 11.2 million, with revenues reaching SEK 1.5 billion ($152 million). Compared to pre-COVID times, this was still 30% lower admission-wise, and 20% down in gross box office.

For local industry experts, Sweden’s difficulty in bouncing back after the pandemic has been more acute than the rest of the Nordics, due to the gradual waning of moviegoer sentiment in the Nordic region’s largest territory, as explained by the Swedish Film Institute’s head of strategic intelligence and research Torkel Stål.

“The slow but steady decline in admission per capita in Sweden started long before the pandemic, he stressed, citing “film consumption’s behavioral shift and increased competition from new media and entertainment choices’” as likely causes.

Yet the slow-down in moviegoing post-pandemic has been even more hurtful for local fare, that posted 1.9 million ticket sales for a 17.1% market share in 2023. This compares to a 19.4% share from 1.9 million admissions in 2022 and an average 21% share in the last 20 years. ”We are very unhappy about that [market share] and that’s a big part of the reason why our recovery is slower than our neighbors,” said Peter Fornstam, owner of the second biggest cinema chain Svenska Bio and president of the national theater owners, who laments the country’s unhealthy over-dependency on Hollywood fare.

Plumbing homegrown titles’ downward spiral, Stål said the lingering pandemic effects “have put cinemas in a vulnerable position and increased the risk that slightly more challenging and experimental films are not given the time and space needed for audiences to find them, and many of the Swedish films released in 2023 fall into this category.”

Stål also underscored that the larger number of local pic releases – 7 up from 2022 to 59 – resulted in their cannibalizing each other’s audiences.

Ultimately the biggest winners were – yet again – U.S. movies that ended up with a clean sweep of the top 10 and 70% slice of the market in admissions and 74% in revenues.

“Barbie “ruled on top with an over $12 million gross, ahead of “Oppenheimer” ($10.4 million) and “Avatar-The Way of Water” ($10 million).

With a whopping 882,629 ticket sales, the Greta Gerwig fantasy comedy topped the total result of the first six Swedish titles in the Top 10.

The two most popular local films were based on popular children book series. “Håkan Bråkan” by Ted Kjellson pulled in around $2.5 million from 232,805 ticket sales in 2023; and “Nelly Rapp – The Secret of the Black Forest” grossed around $1.6 million from 148,043 tickets. In third place in terms of box office gross was “The Final Race” by Edward af Sillén, the Swedish version of the Norwegian family action comedy “Børning” with around $1.5 million from 119,120 tickets.

Top 10 Sweden 2023

(Ranking based on admissions (title, distributor, admissions, B.O., release date)

(Source Filmägarnas Kontrollbyrå)

1.“Barbie,” Warner Bros, 882,629, SEK 130.6 million ($12.5 million), July 21, 2023

  1. “Oppenheimer,” UIP, 658,376 SEK 108 million ($10.4 million), July 21, 2023

  2. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Disney, 636,786, SEK 104 million ($10 million), Dec. 14, 2022

  3. “The Super Mario Bros Movie,” UIP, 609,348, SEK 81.2 million ($7.78 million), April 5, 2023

  4. “Indiana Jones And the Dial of Destiny,” Disney, 278,079, SEK 43.1 million ($4.1 million), June 28, 2023

  5. “Mission Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part 1,” UIP, 240,462, SEK 38,3 million ($3.6 million), July 12, 2023

  6. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3,” Disney, 202,446, SEK 32 million ($3 million), May 3, 2023

  7. “Elemental,” Disney, 231,834, SEK 28.7 million ($2.76 million), July 7, 2023

  8. “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” Nordisk Film, 181,585, SEK 28.5 million ($2 million), Nov. 17, 2023

  9. “Spider-Man-Across the Spider-Verse,” SF/Sony, 196, 434, SEK 28.4 million ($2.72 million), June 2, 2023.

"Oppenheimer"
Oppenheimer

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