Line Daugbjerg Christensen • Distributor, Øst for Paradis
by Annika Pham
31/08/2010 - Based in Århus, Denmark’s second largest city, Øst for Paradis (for East of Eden, the first film that was screened in the cinema) is both a four screen arthouse cinema and a distribution company, importing around 15 quality titles a year. We spoke to Line Daugbjerg Christensen, who took over the running of the company in 2007 after her father Ole Bjørn Christensen.
Cineuropa: How have you concentrated your energy since joining the company and what were the major challenges you were faced with?
Line Daugbjerg Christensen: I think that the mayor challenge for an arthouse cinema is always survival. In our city there are three other big cinemas in competition, and they struggle to get their part of the audience as well. I have to make sure that the films that have up-market potential and artistic value end up showing in our cinema. This is a lot of work!
Apart from this, I’ve concentrated on bringing our 30-year-old cinema into this millennium. That means, on the one hand, a new website and online booking, mailing lists etc. And, on the other, renewing the way people think of the cinema: working with the audience, creating events with cafés and restaurants in the area, making themes with food and films, doing very early morning shows with coffee and croissants, playing music instead of movies on Sundays. In other words, challenging the frames and content of the cinema – with great success! A lot of people now come to us, when they want an experience that is out of the ordinary.
On the distribution side, what is your acquisition policy and what is Øst for Paradis’ place on the Danish market?
In Denmark we have a few very big distributors that mostly handle mainstream films (American and Danish) and then there is a group of four smaller, independent art house distributors, like Øst for Paradis. We buy around 15 titles a year.
What were your most recent theatrical successes and most recent acquisitions?
Our latest acquisitions include the Greek movie Dogtooth [trailer, film focus], the Rumanian film Tuesday, After Christmas [trailer, film focus] and Italian film The Four Times [trailer, film focus]. Our latest success was also Italian: Quiet Chaos [trailer, film focus] (15,000 admissions) and then the most recent premiere, the Iranian film Women Without Men [trailer], looks like it will be a hit, along with the re-release of the classic Once Upon a Time in the West.
Children’s films represent a special niche in our distribution company. The Dutch film Winky’s Horse [trailer], for instance, was successful, with 14,500 admissions in three years. These types of films have a long life in film clubs for children, screenings for schools, and so forth.
When you acquire films, do you collaborate with other Nordic distributors that have your profile and taste?
Yes, we try to make each other aware of good films we spot around the world at festivals, and sometimes we buy movies together or collaborate on DVD releases. We collaborate, for example, with ActionFilm and Arthaus in Norway, and Folkets Bio in Sweden.
What is the typical release pattern and marketing campaign for an arthouse film in Denmark?
We typically have three prints. Sometimes more – for example, we had 11 prints of the German hit Good Bye Lenin! [trailer] – sometimes less. We advertise in two or three newspapers in the first and second week, and in a free movie calendar, distributed weekly in bars, cafés and many other places in three cities. In special cases we advertise in selected film magazines and do postcards that are distributed in cafés and subway train stations.
National newspapers review the films on the release date. The films open in Copenhagen, Århus and Odense, the three main cities in Denmark, and after three-four weeks, they go on to Aalborg and other cities, but many smaller towns only show European films for two-three days or maybe a week. We also make special premiere screenings with wine and guest speakers, or maybe morning shows with croissants and coffee.
What is the current market for European films in Denmark and what could be done to improve their market share?
It has become increasingly difficult to show European films in Denmark. It is harder to break even from theatrical [release] revenues, and at the same time, in our experience, it has become harder to get support from the MEDIA Programme. In order to get a bigger audience we will have to have a bigger marketing campaign – and this will not be possible without increased support from the Media Programme as well as national support systems.
How important is it for you to be part of European organisations such as Europa Cinemas and Europa Distribution and what do you expect from European Distributors Up Next?
The financial support from Europa Cinemas is very important, since it is difficult to run an arthouse cinema, but also the Europa Distribution network and the information provided during these meetings (for instance, about the digital process) are very important to us. We have big hopes for the new support programme for films from third world countries. It is important to continue to offer a wide range of films and maintain a cultural diversity in the various cities across Denmark.