The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Shouldn’t movies travel faster than Phileas Fogg?

with 23 comments

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.

Shrinking world
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.

The Master
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.

Written by Jessica

September 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm

23 Responses

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  1. Excellent post. I suffer similarly in India, that is *if* the film releases at all here. A Separation is going to come out in October THIS year. Lord alone knows how long I will have to wait for Anna Karenina and The Master 😦

    Nikhat

    September 23, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    • Thanks! I can imagine the wait is even worse than where you live, so I’m probably still speaking from a “spoiled” perspective. Sometimes we’re lucky to get movies early. I watched Laurence Aniways the other night, which barely has left the festival stage. But sometimes the wait gets long and painful.

      Jessica

      September 23, 2012 at 2:30 pm

  2. Fargo feels a bit like Siberia from time to time as well. I basically understand why they might put a week or two between launches in different regions (to allow the actors to make the press circuits) but I seriously don’t understand why they would need months. It doesn’t make film piracy justified, but it makes it understandable.

    Bondo

    September 23, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    • I guess in some cases it’s got to do with doubts about how well the movie will make it in theatres. They don’t think anyone will go and see it unless it’s been talked about for a while. But I think months of delay is a mistake. When it finally arrives people will feel that it’s “old news” and the urge to watch the film has shrunk.

      Jessica

      September 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    • This does seem like a potential problem: When people can’t legally get a movie, which has been released, for months, they’re going to feel less problem with piracy (since they can’t buy it anyway). Then when it finally is released, they’ve already seen it!

      klepsacovic

      September 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      • Yeah. I don’t understand why the industry doesn’t see the effects.

        Jessica

        September 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm

  3. The funny thing with the Master is that it actually co-stars Lena Endre. That should be reason enough for a limited release in at least Stockholm (including 70mm screening at Bio Victor to kick it off) and maybe Gothenburg and Malmö.

    Joel Burman (@joelburman)

    September 23, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    • I don’t understand it. Perhaps it’s an issue of negotiations. They’re still discussing the conditions with the distribution company or something. I can only guess. I think the topic sounds interesting enough to catch a Swedish audience.

      Jessica

      September 23, 2012 at 6:38 pm

  4. Great post, and you know how I feel about this. Beasts of the Southern Wild is another example (it’s more indie than The Master yes, but still). With The Master it didn’t even cross my mind that it wouldn’t be released in like October… until you tweeted about the IMDb release date (Feb) which later was taken away.

    Jojjenito

    September 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    • Thanks. Yeah, Beasts of the Southern wild is – perhaps – a little bit more understandable. But The Master doesn’t feel like a small-scale arthouse audience film. It’s a director people have heard of and it should find it’s ways to the theatres quicker.

      In any case you’re lucky, living in Stockholm. You’ll probably catch it at the festival. I’ll have to wait much longer.

      Jessica

      September 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      • In a way I can understand them. PT Anderson is not mainstream enough.

        The problem with SF distribution is that they don’t any middle ground. Its either full on blockbuster treatment 100+ screens or its a really small limited release. Jan Troells films are often distributed in 1-3 copies.

        I think the Master could be distributed properly and clever without over saturation and a high spend. I wish the distributors would try to think more creative about their campaigns.

        Joel Burman (@joelburman)

        September 23, 2012 at 9:31 pm

  5. I’d understand if there were physical distribution problems. But any films released digitally could be released anywhere and everywhere. I agree, this is a stupid problem. I hate the fact that a movie that “everyone” on the net is talking about can’t even be seen by a large segment who are interested in it. Good points, Jessica.

    Steve Kimes

    September 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    • Thanks for the support Steve! And yes, while I didn’t go into the change of technology into digital, since the post was going so long anyway, that was also in my mind. I’m not an expert in those things, but it appears to me that there shouldn’t be a limited amount of copies circulating like it used to be. It should easier to make as many of them as is needed.

      Jessica

      September 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

  6. Great post, Jessica. I can completely identify with this issue. We sometimes get movies months and even years after they originally open. It’s awful.

    fernandorafael

    September 24, 2012 at 7:36 am

    • Thanks Fernando! I can imagine the situation is just as bad in Mexico or possibly worse.

      Jessica

      September 24, 2012 at 11:45 am

  7. What the what? It takes 150 days to get to you? Films I mean? That is madness!! It will be on Blu-Ray before reaching you!!!

    I thought we had it bad here compared to USA, but now my thoughts are totally with you!

    • I know Scott! Imagine how frustrating it is! And I frankly don’t know how to get a change. Does the film industry listen to movie bloggers like me? Maybe. But I think they probably listen more if they see that illegal dowloading increases when audiences have to wait for months and years for movies to arrive to their country.

      Jessica

      September 24, 2012 at 11:49 am

  8. I’m at a loss as to why film release dates, worldwide, are all so all over the place. I honestly don’t understand. Surely the film studios and production companies would benefit from simultaneous world wide releases? It just smacks of nervousness and honestly doesn’t make sense to me.

    Jaina

    September 24, 2012 at 11:02 am

    • It seems as for the biggest block buster production they go for world wide releases, such as in the case of Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and later this year The Hobbit. But for the smaller productions it’s very unpredictable. Some movies take ages for spread. If you get them at all. In the case of the brilliant Australian movie Animal Kingdom we only got it as a DVD release.

      Jessica

      September 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

  9. Great post. I’ve never understood why, in this day and age, it still takes so long for worldwide releases.

    Dave Enkosky

    September 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    • Thanks Dave! Yes, it escapes me too. I’m not a business man and perhaps they have their reasons; after all movies are supposed to make a profit. But I have the feeling that they haven’t yet found a way to adapt to the new situation where news travel fast and people expect to be able to watch the same movies as their friends do, regardless of where in the world they live.

      Jessica

      September 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

  10. […] som driver bloggen The Velvet Café, skrivit ett blogginlägg om det heta ämnet fönstertider; “Shouldn´t movies travel faster than Pileas Fogg?”. Jag blev via twitter uppmanad att ha en åsikt i ämnet av @joelburman. och – tänk, det har […]

  11. I asked a small swedish film distributor about this just a week ago. They told me that on the one hand they try not to compete with similar films (but that wouldn’t really be the case with Anna Karenina at the moment, since there is no other costume drama out there right now) and therefore try to spread out their releases over the year. On the other hand they told me that when they obtain the rights for a certain film it can be extremely difficult to convince SF to take it in – and that is because of SFs exclusive position in the swedish cinemabusiness. So if SF say that they cannot do anything, that’s definitely not true. As a cinema chain they can even ask distributors to hasten the release of a certain film if they feel that it would be good for their business. Also good to know is that SF is not only a cinema chain, they are also a film distribution company who are foremost interested in marketing their own movies and the films they bought themselves. And the largest part of your – in my honest opinion quite expensive – SF-ticket goes directly to the cinema, not to the distribution company.

    Lena

    October 29, 2012 at 7:38 pm


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