Shouldn’t movies travel faster than Phileas Fogg?
I can’t put my finger on the reason. Perhaps it’s got something to do with our common Viking ancestors. Or maybe we’ve molded by the same miserable weather conditions. Regardless of what’s causing it, it’s a fact that Swedes in general feel very close to Britain. There are so many Swedes living in London now, that some people claim it’s the fourth biggest city in Sweden. The trip across the water that keeps us apart only takes a little more than two hours. And we love to swap TV criminal series with each other; the Brits are as crazy about Wallander as we are about the Midsomer Murders over here.
We’re close in every aspect expect for one. When it comes to movies UK could as well be situated in the midst of the Amazons and Sweden could be a remote area in Siberia.
Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina opened in London on September 7. Even if she crossed the waters swimming due to an aircraft strike, she should have arrived here after two weeks. But she hasn’t. She’s not even close. Anna Karenina won’t open in Sweden until February 15 next year, a little more than five months or 150 days after the premier. Phileas Fogg would have made two rounds around the world meanwhile, covering some stretches riding an elephant!
God knows what takes the lady so long. Someone or something is keeping her locked into the British market. And don’t tell me to ask SF Bio, which is the theatre chain that completely dominates the Swedish market. They don’t know. They never do.
Whenever someone has question or expresses their frustration over late launches in Sweden, they will just throw out their hands over Twitter, denying any kind of responsibility in the matter. If I understand them correctly, they have no influence whatsoever on what movies they show in their theatres. They’re completely in the hands of the film companies, and they only do what they’re told. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised about this; they’re probably focusing on their core business nowadays – the popcorn sales.
Regardless of whose fault it is – the theatre chain or the film companies – I just don’t get it. It appears as if the film industry completely has missed out on what’s been going on during the last fifteen years or so. They live in the notion that the markets are kept apart by some kind of invisible wall and that there are barriers that keep information from sipping through.
In other branches they seem to have grasped that the world has shrunk. When George RR Martin publishes his next part in the A song of ice and fire series, I can’t imagine that Amazon would refuse selling it to me for another five months since I live in Scandinavia. When the newest expansion of World of Warcraft is launched, the fans get upset if one part of the world gets access to it a few hours before the other part. But as film fans we’re expected to patiently wait, which can be quite a trial. It’s not just the fact that you’re unable to participate in the discussion in forums, podcasts, blogs and on twitter since you haven’t seen the film everyone else is talking about. In some cases you also need to be on your edge, always ready to flee if you see a potential spoiler incoming. In case you haven’t experienced it yourself, I can tell you it’s quite exhausting!
If I could decide, how long would the wait be? Well, I’m reasonable. I don’t insist on that all movies always should open at the same time all over the world. I don’t expect Anna Karenina to beam herself to Sweden. After all I can understand that a certain delay is necessary to make the marketing manageable. Actors can’t clone themselves, so obviously they need to spread out the openings so they can attend them and make their 10 minute interview marathons at hotel rooms in various places. I get that. And I also understand that it can be a bit tricky to manage the available salons. If there are several premiers of Swedish films around the time when Anna Karenina opens, there can be a waiting queue.
But there are no excuses for a five month wait. Perhaps they hope to sell a few more tickets if the movie gets some Oscar nomination and there’s some buzz about it. On the other hand there’s the issue of illegal downloading. The longer people have to wait for a film the legal way, the more entitled will they feel to get it by other means. I don’t say that those delays justify downloading. But it’s a factor to take into consideration.
I used Anna Karenina as my main example in this post. There are worse cases though. Originally I had planned to talk about The Master, which IMDB until recently claimed would open in February in Sweden. That date has now been removed, and currently there’s no set release date. When you ask SF Bio you get the vague response: “leaning towards a release during the winter/spring 2013”.
So as far as the Swedish audience is concerned The Master is missing in action. It tickles my imagination. Maybe his plane crashed in the Bermuda Triangle? Or pirates keep him hostage after bordering his ship as he was trying to cross the Atlantic? Perhaps he caught a mysterious fever as he made his way through an until now unheard of jungle on his way to Europe?
We can only speculate about what has happened. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for that a movie nowadays should be able to cross the world within the same timeframe as Phileas Fogg once did.