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Nordisk Film A/S Business Information, Profile, and History

firm company films distribution

Mosedalvej 14
Valby
2500
Denmark

Company Perspectives

At Nordisk Film we do that in motion pictures and in music. Nordisk Film has been the leader of the entertainment industry in the Nordic region for one hundred years. Our goal is to keep attracting the biggest talents in film, television, games and music. That way we can keep telling the best, the weirdest, the most important and the corkiest stories. Creativity is key at Nordisk Film. We are proud of that fact. Therefore our promise to the world is: We bring stories to life.

History of Nordisk Film A/S

Nordisk Film A/S is the largest film and television company in Scandinavia, and one of the oldest continuously operating ones in the world. The Danish firm makes television programs, theatrical films, commercials, cartoons, and music videos; distributes its own films and those of other companies to theaters in Scandinavia; operates a chain of Danish and Norwegian movie theaters; and distributes videos, videogames, and Sony PlayStation equipment in Scandinavia. Nordisk also has several joint ventures with other studios, co-owns a music firm, and operates on-demand broadband and cable television service TV2 Sputnik with Danish broadcaster TV2. The firm is a unit of Egmont, a Danish media group with operations in 21 countries.

Beginnings

The company now known as Nordisk Film traces its origins to 1906, when Ole Olsen started producing motion pictures in Denmark. The first title completed by Olsen, who a few months earlier had opened a film theater in Copenhagen, was a two-minute silent film called Duer og Maager (Pigeons and Sea Gulls), and others soon followed. On November 6, 1906, he officially founded Nordisk Films Kompagni and by year's end offices had been established at Vimmelskaftet, along with outdoor studios at Valby and a film laboratory at Frihavnen. The firm was now operating in Germany and Sweden, and had adopted a logo of a polar bear standing atop a globe.

Over the next several years the firm continued to grow, gaining affiliates in Austria, Britain, and the United States. In 1908 an indoor studio was opened at Valby, and a second followed in 1910. In 1911 Nordisk began producing feature films of approximately 45 minutes in length, the same year that its stock began trading publicly. Over the next four years three additional Valby studios were opened, and during 1914 the company produced a record 143 fiction and 46 nonfiction films, of which more than 7,000 copies were sold to distributors.

Screen stars of this era included Olaf Fonss, Clara Wieth Pontoppidan, and Valdemar Psilander. The latter was hugely popular and completed more than 80 films between 1911 and 1916, but his salary demand of DKK 250,000 and the impact of World War I on film distribution caused the company to begin running deeply in the red. Nordisk's New York affiliate closed in 1916 and in 1917 Olsen gave up his German operations, which had grown to include 60 movie theaters and a production company.

In the 1920s Nordisk strove to regain its momentum, with director A.W. Sandberg contributing a number of popular releases, including several Dickens adaptations. In 1922 Ole Olsen stepped down as the firm's managing director, and by 1928 production had fallen to a single fiction film, Jokeren (The Joker), which was directed by a German and starred non-Danish actors.

1929: Reorganization Under Carl Bauder

In 1929 majority shareholder Carl Bauder took control of the firm, and Nordisk's first sound feature, Praesten I Vejlby (The Vicar of Vejlby), was released two years later. Bauder also owned a theater called Palads Teatret and held control of several sound patents, and in 1934 won a lawsuit that forced American studios like Paramount, Fox, and MGM to pay Nordisk a licensing fee to use so-called "noiseless" sound reproduction technology in the Scandinavian countries.

In 1936 Holger Brondum was appointed managing director of the company, a post he would hold for nearly three decades. During World War II the German occupation of Denmark caused the firm to suffer several major losses, with the Valby Studios and its Kino-Palaeet movie theater both destroyed in 1944. After the war Valby's Studio 4 was rebuilt and it resumed operations in 1946.

In 1951 the company founded Nordisk Film Junior to make children's films, documentaries, commercials, and Danish remakes of foreign titles, and five years later the firm's first color movie, Kispus, was released. Nordisk was now beginning to produce movies in Greenland, with Kispus director Eric Balling producing a feature there called Qivitoq during the year. The latter film was nominated for an Oscar in 1957, the same year that Balling was named a managing director of Nordisk Film. Balling's successes as a movie director continued throughout the 1960s, and included the 1963 Sommer I Tyrol and several James Bond-inspired secret agent comedies in 1965 and 1966.

Television Production Beginning in 1970

Balling continued to be a creative leader for Nordisk, bringing it to the small screen in 1970 with the long-running series Huset Pa Christianshawn (Friends and Neighbors). Because of the show's success, as well as a popular series of "Olsen Gang" comedy films, the company was able to continue operating at a time when several other Danish studios were closing, as well as rebuilding Valby's Studio 3. Another successful Balling-directed TV program, Matador (Monopoly), was begun in 1978 and became Denmark's most popular series over a four-year run.

In 1982 the firm named Jens Jordan its managing director, and during his tenure the renovation and expansion of Carl Bauder's Palads Teatret was completed. The early 1980s was a fertile period for Nordisk, with successful films by directors like Kaspar Rostrup, Nils Malmros, Bille August, Ole Roos, Lars von Trier, and Balling winning numerous Danish and international film awards.

In 1984 Hans Morten Rubin was named to head the firm's Valby operations, and with investors, including publishing firm Gutenberghus, he quickly established Denmark's first privately owned local television station, Weekend-TV. Although it broadcast several popular shows, the station was not allowed to show advertisements, and with losses skyrocketing it was shut down two years later.

The firm had long been owned by a joint partnership of the Ema and Carl Bauders Foundation and Carl Bauder A/S, but during 1985 company head Jens Jordan was allowed to acquire a stake in its film production unit. In addition to subsidiaries devoted to technology, video, and distribution, Nordisk now controlled 40 percent of the movie theaters in Denmark. The year 1985 also saw Nordisk join with Gutenberghus to found a film production company called Dansk Reklame Film A/S.

In 1987 the company formed a group to plan strategy for television broadcasting, which led to the creation of a unit called Nordisk Film Broadcast and the acquisition of a 30 percent stake in Kanal 2, a private television station in Copenhagen. In 1988 the firm began to produce shows for the new Danish national network TV2, which included a Danish version of the hit game show Wheel of Fortune.

The year 1988 also saw Gabriel Axel's Nordisk production Babettes Gaestebud (Babette's Feast) win Denmark's first-ever Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and another of the studio's productions, Bille August's Pelle Erobreren (Pelle the Conqueror) won a year later. In 1989 the French company Pathe bought a 50 percent stake in the firm's distribution and exhibition division for DKK 185.4 million, after which it became known as Pathe-Nordisk A/S. A year later the unit formed a joint partnership with Svensk Filmindustri called Scandinavia Media Alliance to buy distribution, broadcast, and video rights to films from CBS/FOX, Orion, and RCA/Columbia, which would control close to 30 percent of the Scandinavian film market.

In late 1991 Union Bank of Finland formed a joint venture with Nordisk to create a holding company that would operate the firm's theater chain as well as 86 Finnkino theaters in Finland. Each company controlled approximately two-thirds of the screens in their home countries. The partnership hit rocky ground in late spring, however, and after months of negotiations Nordisk dropped out and sold a minority stake it had acquired.

Merger with Egmont in 1992

In the summer of 1992 Nordisk merged with Danish media and publishing conglomerate Egmont Group, which had previously been known as Gutenberghus. Egmont owned a 20 percent stake in Norway's TV2, which was about to begin running advertisements, as well as other film/video production and distribution units in Scandinavia and Germany. Nordisk's new parent company had sales of approximately $1 billion, of which its newly conglomerated film/video units were expected to contribute a fifth. The Scandinavian Media Alliance joint venture subsequently began acting as Egmont's purchasing unit, while Nordisk took over the distribution company formerly split jointly with Pathe, and the still co-owned chain of theaters became Nordisk-MGM Biografer, adopting Pathe's parent company's name.

In the fall of 1993 the firm was restructured into six divisions, as follows: television production facilities; feature film and TV fiction production; theatrical distribution/exhibition/radio; video distribution; Scandinavian TV services/foreign film and TV sales; and business development/joint venture projects. The firm's Andrsteierne film laboratory and IFT subtitling units would remain standalone operations.

The year 1993 also saw Nordisk buy a 50 percent stake in a unit of Scanbox Denmark A/S called Dansk Video Service (DVS), which distributed videotapes to gas stations and convenience shops; form a joint venture with John De Mol Productions to make game show and reality TV programs; win the right to rent out Nintendo videogames in Norway and Denmark; and take over Danish film distribution for 20th Century Fox.

In 1994 the Scandinavian Media Alliance was dissolved, ending what some had criticized as a virtual monopoly of the market. The firm would continue to work with Svensk Filmindustri on select projects afterward, however.

Management Shakeup/Restructuring in 1995

In August of 1995 Nordisk entered a period of crisis when managing director Jens Jordan was fired by the firm's board, reportedly because he had backed six executives who wrote a letter seeking greater independence from Egmont. The firm's newly appointed chief operating officer, Henrik Slipsager, also was let go and more than a dozen other executives subsequently quit. Jensen later filed suit and Egmont parent the Egmont Foundation stopped holding board meetings because Jordan was a member and could not be dismissed due to a provision in his contract. In December the Danish Ministry of Justice found in favor of Jordan, and he was invited to rejoin the board and several lawsuits were dropped. That same month saw the firm appoint three new executives to head Nordisk's major units of distribution, production, and finance. Each would report directly to Egmont CEO Jan Froeshaug, with Nordisk's CEO job eliminated.

The year 1995 also saw Nordisk form a classic film unit to market special interest and art film titles, and found Nordisk Film Format Distribution to scout foreign markets for new program ideas while selling Scandinavian ones abroad. The firm now had 600 employees and annual revenues of more than DKK 1.5 billion, equal to $246 million.

In 1996 Nordisk Film split into two units, Nordisk Film & TV Production and Egmont Entertainment, the latter of which would handle distribution chores. The company also completed Bryggeren (The Brewer), a TV miniseries about the founder and history of the Carlsberg brewery. It was the longest and most expensive program of its type filmed to date in Scandinavia, costing about DKK 90 million. The firm also sold radio unit Nordisk Film Radio to Uptown Radio, bought a 41 percent stake in troubled broadcaster TV Linkoping, and acquired TV production firm VipVision of Finland during the year.

In early 1997 the company launched network gaming services via Egmont Online, a Nordisk subsidiary that offered educational and shopping options. In 1998 Nordisk bought a production company called Victoria Film, which was merged with the firm's Per Holst Film unit, and 1999 saw formation of children's film unit Egmont Bornefilm, as well as the acquisition of film laboratories in Copenhagen and Stockholm that had formerly been operated as a joint venture, giving Nordisk leadership in this category in Scandinavia. The firm also purchased advertisement producer Tinmen Filmproduksjon A/S and underwent another restructuring during the year, with filmmaker Per Holst appointed creative director.

During 2000 Nordisk added new post-production facilities in Valby and created a new feature film production unit. Revenues totaled $92.3 million for the year, with a loss of $2.5 million recorded. In early 2001 the company laid off 30 employees after the long-running Wheel of Fortune was canceled by TV2.

Merger of Nordisk Film and Egmont Entertainment in 2002

In 2002 Nordisk Film and Egmont Entertainment were merged back together as the two companies' parent sought to create the "largest Nordic producer and distributor of electronic entertainment," according to a press release. The firm's employment ranks would grow to 1,350 and its revenues to more than $474 million under the leadership of Egmont Entertainment director Kenneth Plummer.

In 2003 a miniseries called The Royal Family was a major success and it was sold to numerous TV networks abroad. Nordisk was experiencing growth in other areas, as well, racking up the one millionth sale of Sony PlayStation 2 videogame consoles in Scandinavia and acquiring Pinkfloor A/S, maker of a videogame for teenage girls called "PowerBabe." During the year the firm also opened a U.S. office, shut down its advertising film production unit, and boosted the production of feature films for the Scandinavian market.

In 2004 the company joined with Danish TV2 to launch TV2 Sputnik, an on-demand television channel that would give subscribers access to TV2 programs and several hundred Nordisk film titles. It was initially available only through broadband Internet connections, but a cable television option was later added via TDC Kabel TV. The firm subsequently added an online video rental store called Sputnik Film, as well. Videogame subsidiary Nordisk Films Interactive sold one million software units during the year, and the firm also had success with "reality" TV titles like FC Zulu and Jakten pa Kjaerligheten, the latter of which became the most popular TV series in the history of Norwegian television.

During 2004 the company continued to find success distributing imported films in Scandinavia like American hits Kill Bill and Spiderman 2, while opening a new movie theater, BioCity Aalborg, and installing new all-digital projection equipment on three screens. Nordisk sold a 40 percent stake it owned in videogame maker IO Interactive to Eidos of the United Kingdom, as well.

In 2005 the company bought a 20 percent stake in Matila Rohr Productions of Finland, that country's largest production company, and expanded its movie theater chain to 16 units with a new location in Frederiksberg, near Copenhagen. In the videogame sector the firm launched the Sony handheld PlayStationPortable, selling 125,000 units, and had success with so-called "social games" like "Buzz," "Sing Star," and "Eye Toy." The year 2005 also saw a joint venture launched with Sonofon to provide film information and previews and other content to mobile telephones, while Nordisk Film Interactive began working to develop games for mobile phones.

During 2005 the company signed deals with production firms including Fluid Films, Affinity Films, and Cristaldi Pictures, which gave Nordisk distribution rights and an equity stake in exchange for investing 10 to 15 percent of the films' budgets. The year saw Nordisk acquire 104 international films for distribution while also handling 55 Scandinavian-produced titles.

In early 2006 Michael Ritto was appointed to the post of managing director, taking the place of the recently departed Kenneth Plummer. Nordisk would simultaneously acquire an ownership stake in Ritto's record company Music Business Organization A/S, as it sought to broaden its activities in this area. The year 2006 also saw the sale of DVS Entertainment to Scanbox and the acquisition of several Danish movie theaters from Sandrew Metronome.

Starting its second century in business, Nordisk Film A/S had broadened its scope beyond film and television to include music, videogames, and digital interactive content. The industry leader in its home country of Denmark, Nordisk was a powerful presence throughout Scandinavia, as well.

Principal Subsidiaries

Nordisk Film Biografer A/S; Nordisk Film A/S; Nordisk Film Post Production A/S; Per Holst Film A/S; Nordisk Film Interactive.

Principal Competitors

Svensk Filmindustri; Sandrew Metronome AB; Zentropa Entertainments; Nimbus Film Producktion ApS; Scanbox Entertainment A/S; Thura Film A/S; Koncern TV & Filmproduktion A/S.

Chronology

  • Key Dates
  • 1906 Theater owner Ole Olsen begins making short films in Denmark.
  • 1929 Carl Bauder takes control of the insolvent firm and reorganizes operations.
  • 1944 The studios and movie theater are destroyed during World War II.
  • 1970 Eric Balling's Friends and Neighbors is produced for television.
  • 1984 Weekend-TV joint broadcast venture is formed, but lasts only two years.
  • 1988 Nordisk-produced Babette's Feast wins the first Danish best foreign film Oscar.
  • 1989 Pathe buys 50 percent of the firm's exhibition/distribution operations.
  • 1992 Nordisk is acquired by Egmont.
  • 1996 The firm is split into two units, with Egmont Entertainment handling distribution.
  • 2002 Egmont Entertainment is merged back into Nordisk.
  • 2004 TV2 Sputnik broadband video service is launched with Danish TV2.
  • 2006 Michael Ritto is named to head the firm; Nordisk takes a stake in his record company.
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