Why being a movie buff in Finland sucks…

projectorI’m a movie buff. I love watching movies, I love going to the movies and I like watching movies I’ve never seen before. Going to the movies is a particular joy for me. Sure, I could always just wait six months for the movie to be out on home media, but I enjoy the experience of actually watching a movie in a big theatre where there are no distractions from the experience itself. Not that watching movies in the privacy of my own home is any worse – but it always adds an extra something, even if the movie is bad.

That said, living in Finland presents its specific challenges when I want to watch certain types of movies. I live in Oulu which is the fifth largest city in the country, but that means next to nothing for most film distributors. Unless you live in the immediate vicinity of our nation’s capital, you are going to have to live with the harsh reality that not every movie you’d want to see is going to be shown in your local theatre and, even if they will, you’re probably going to have to be swift on your feet or make some small sacrifice to your over-all movie-going experience.

Firstly, what exactly is the source of this problem? It’s a simple matter of population density. Finland only has a population of about 5,5 million of which nearly a fifth lives in the immediate influence of Helsinki’s metropolitan area. Oulu’s population is a measly ~197’000 and the harsh reality is that only a fraction of that population goes to the movies. Remember when I said Oulu is the fifth largest city in Finland? You can then imagine what the situation is like in Finland’s other 105 cities which are not Helsinki. It simply doesn’t make sense for film distributors to shown every movie available here because they know that not enough people are going to see them to justify the cost of running them in theatres (as well as advertising, paying theatre workers etc.). A film’s box-office intake usually drops off dramatically after the first week anyway, so in a country where the potential customer base is so small to begin with, you can imagine that theatres aren’t going to run a movie to empty seats for more than a couple of weeks.

Now that we’ve gotten down to the cause of the problem, how does it show? Well, as someone who has a soft-spot for video-game movies, this is a problem if the distribution of these movies is handled by companies who decide that they’re not going to be grossing enough money to justify showing the movie in theatres. Mind you, video-game movies aren’t the only ones who get this treatment – but they are a perfect examples such as in the case when in 2012, the company responsible for the distribution of both Resident Evil: Retribution and Silent Hill: Revelations snagged the theatrical release for both movies in Finland and Sweden, which angered fans of these movie series in both countries. The long and short of it is that sometimes you only have the choice of waiting for the home media release simply because there was no theatrical showing to begin with. Something similar happened with Dragon Ball: Evolution, despite the fact that the national theatre-chain FinnKino had been showing the trailer for the movie for almost a year before its release.

Then there’s the sad fact that some movies aren’t going to be in theatres for long. To their credit, FinnKino keeps around multiple showings for most films (even ones it doesn’t necessarily expect to draw in huge crowds) for the first week following the release. After that though, the movie may get bumped to an evening showing only which sucks for me since I prefer to go see movies during the day. The cut-off on number of showings is inevitable the longer the movie stays in theatres but it also contributes to two other problems.

I really hate 3D and I would usually always prefer seeing a movie in 2D. Unfortunately, that is sometimes not an option. If a movie is a huge blockbuster release drummed up for months in advance, you’re probably going to be in the clear in regards to having an option of seeing the movie in 2D at a reasonable hour. However, I have also seen some movies which only offer the film in 3D and this really sucks. Apart from the fact that ticket prices are always higher for 3D films, I don’t see why also having the 2D showing to compliment it is such a chore for the movie theatre (especially if it means less 3D glasses maintenance). There have also been occasions in the past that I’ve been forced to see a movie in 3D simply because the only 2D showing is so god damn late. And more over, if I end up getting the movie on home media later, it’s going to be in 2D – so I don’t see why I have to subject myself to torture just because I want to see it in a theatre beforehand.

A little bit of eyestrain is still, not too bad, but then there’s the problem faced by those of us who are also fans of animated movies. Not that Finnish movie dubs are terrible, but I would still prefer seeing an animated feature in its original language when I go see it in the theatre. For children’s movies, there’s the added double-whammy of a.) not having an alternative for a 2D showing and b.) not having a choice to watch the movie undubbed. The originally undubbed version is usually seen in theatres but only for the first week. Even if the movie is particularly popular, the original voice-track version isn’t around for very long. So if you wait for too long, you’ll either have to sit in at a dubbed showing or just wait for the home media release again.

Even so, like I said at the very beginning, I love going to the movies – but problems like this are the number-1 reason why I occasionally miss out on movies or have to wait a bit longer than everyone else to see them.