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Film distributor accuses Finnkino of extortion, pulls new movie

A new domestic movie distributed by Nordisk Film will not be screened in any theatres operated by Finnkino, Finland's biggest movie theatre chain. The distributor says that the cinema chain's new box office share demands amount to extortion.

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Still image from the Film Yösyöttö, which will likely never be shown in Finnkino's theatres. Image: Marek Sabogal / Solar Films

Movie distributor Nordisk Film has pulled its new comedy feature Yösyöttö ("Night Feeding"), from all Finnkino theatres following a box office share-split dispute with the cinema chain.

The film's producer Markus Selin says he is appalled by Finnkino's demands for the  lion's share of ticket sales, calling the requirement "extortion".

"They said on Monday that they want a far larger share of the box office than before. That's an impossible scenario for us," Selin says.

The withdrawal of the movie is a major setback for the production, which premieres on Friday and had been selected as Finnkino's Film of the Month.

"They probably assumed we would be desperate enough to go along with anything. I will not bend to blackmail. This is outrageous exploitation of a monopoly standing," Selin says.

Dropping the motion picture from Finnkino screens means dire financial straits for the producers ofYösyöttö which, according to an IMDB estimate, had a budget of 800,000 euros.

Yösyöttö is a comedy based on a novel by author Eve Hietamies and tackles themes of family, adulthood and parenting. The film is scripted by Marko Leino (of Sofi Oksanen's Purge adaptation fame), directed by Marja Leino and stars Petteri Summanen as a hapless new father.

Based in Denmark, Nordisk Film lays claim as one of the world's oldest movie studios and distributes films, TV series and video games across the Nordic and Baltic countries. Its subsidiary Nordisk Film Cinemas is the leading movie theatre chain in Denmark and Norway, according to the company's website.

Finnkino is Finland's biggest cinema chain with 14 theatres in 11 cities in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Earlier this year - as part of a broader buyout of the Nordic Cinema Group - Finnkino was acquired by US movie theatre behemoth AMC Theatres. Finnkino announced the acquisition had been approved by EU regulators in a press release it issued in March.

Finnkino: "Industry changing, developments necessary"

Finnkino sales chief Kalle Peltola says that negotiations have been ongoing with Nordisk Film since March.

"The last time the terms of the deal were discussed was in 2012," says Peltola. "The world and the film industry have changed in five years, enough to warrant new talks."

The distributor has barred the use of its movie in Finnkino theatres by denying the conglomerate the feature's marketing rights.

Peltola says he still believes that some sort of deal can be hammered out.

"Nordisk Film is a large partner for us. We hope to sit at the negotiation table before long, but we can't promise anything," he says.

Finnkino announced that it has already come forward with potential solutions to the stalemate. Nordisk Film's Katarina Nyman disagrees.

"I spoke with them last this morning, and Finnkino had no concrete suggestions for us," the distribution executive says.

Nyman cites Finnkino's inflexibility as the main reason for the icy state of affairs.

Alternative channels considered

Yösyöttö's producer Selin says pulling the film would not likely help the movie get seen by theatregoers.

"Our decision is financially destructive, as Finnkino holds 70 percent of the market share. All domestic films may end up in this same situation before long. I hope this action shakes up the monopoly," Selin says.

With their main channel of distribution closed off, producers are considering screening their new flick at alternative venues like conference halls and restaurants.

"Maybe this will bring about new ways of film distribution, if Finnkino keeps up the pressure," Selin says.

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