Scandinavian distribution group Scanbox Entertainment headed by Hollywood-based Icelandic born Joni Sighvatsson has restructured over the past year and a half and upped its involvement in Nordic talents and films. We spoke to Managing Director Thor Sigurjonsson (pictured) about the group’s Nordic activities and ambitions.

You joined Scanbox a year and a half ago. What is your exact role and do you still have ties to the independent production houses Zik Zak Filmworks in Iceland and Profile Pictures in Denmark?
Thor Sigurjonsson: I’m still partner in Zik Zak Filmworks and Profile Pictures but keep a lower profile since I joined Scanbox and let my partners - Skuli Malmquist at Zik Zak and Ditte Milsted, Jacob Jarek and Caroline Schluter at Profile Pictures - run the companies. 

I’m General Manager of Scanbox Entertainment and run the day to day activities of the group in Scandinavia together with Kim William Beich, Head of Operations and Acquisitions. I’m mostly involved in all Nordic productions.

At Scanbox we do not have in-house production arms, but we make alliances with local producers and co-produce.

Do you have first look deals in place in Scandinavia?
I don’t believe in first look deals. At Scanbox we tend to deal on a film by film basis, working closely with producers. Each project is different and has to be matched with the right distributor. We can come in at any stage of production, during development, with a TV station on board for instance, or later on. We give straight MGs or part of the MGs can go towards development.

Do you invest in documentaries as well?
We’ve had Michael Moore films in our catalogue. We’re completely open to docs but we want films that can open in cinemas. We are actually looking at a few Scandinavian documentaries right now. 

Overall, how many Nordic films do you release annually and what is the share of Nordic/Non-Nordic?
We release nearly 50 films a year, 25-30 theatrical and 20 straight to DVD/VOD. Our target is to have around 10 Nordic titles in our line-up. For the moment, we have 6 films for 2015. Traditionally local films do well in Scandinavia, so our aim is to increase our presence on that segment of the market.

How is Scanbox’s set up in each Scandinavian territory and how autonomous are each offices in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden?
We have our own physical distribution offices in all territories except in Norway where we have a deal with Norsk Filmdistribusjon. They really match our profile and we do value that relationship. On the production side, we are seriously looking into getting involved in Norwegian films. Hopefully we´ll have something in place very soon. .

Our office in Copenhagen takes overall decisions, but we work hand in hand with our local branches that are free to bring their own projects to our table. In terms of marketing, we have our own Nordic Theatrical Marketing Manager – Merete Christensen -, but again, each local office is pretty autonomous regarding P&As. We trust their judgment because each culture and market is different.

How would you define the editorial line at Scanbox?
We’re like a US mini-major, with a lot of flexibility, which means that we can handle almost any type of film and we can make decisions very quickly. We have moved from a home entertainment focused line-up to a more diversified slate. So next to genre films that still represent the core of our business, are upscale films like Blue Jasmine, Philomena, or The Artist. Whether it´s a local Scandi title like My Skinny Sister, a big budget US indie film like Tarantino´s Hateful 8 or horror-noir such as Refn´s The Neon Demon, we want to be the quintessential distributor of quality films. 

With prominent US producer Joni Sighvatsson as chairman of Scanbox, do you get prime access to the US market and co-production/co-financing opportunities?
TS: Yes of course. Besides Joni, our US connections also include producer Nicolas Chartier of Voltage Entertainment [Hurt Locker] who came in as a shareholder and producer Chris Briggs. Both sit on Scanbox’s Board of Directors. Joni, Nicolas & Chris have an insider’s view of what´s happening in Los Angeles and their combined experience is a unique asset for Scanbox. 

Your film taste is as eclectic in Scandinavia?
Yes. We have auteur films, children’s film, thrillers, comedies. I’ve been on the board of Scanbox since 2005 and I’ve seen the great successes for instance in Denmark of the Father of Four franchise. We will continue with family films but diversify our slate a bit more. Scanbox is also a keen supporter of new Scandinavian talent and our upcoming slate includes for instance the Crystal Bear winner My Skinny Sister by first time Swedish director Sanna Lenken and I blodet, the directorial debut of top Danish scriptwriter Rasmus Heisterberg [The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, A Royal Affair].

How does Scanbox adapt to the new distribution mix in the digital age and what’s the share of theatrical today in your annual revenues?
We closed in March last year our DVD facility in Viborg, and 15 people lost the jobs. That was tough. Today we outsource our products. We are in a transition phase, but DVD is not dead. We still do good numbers, for instance with films like Taken 3. Other titles go straight to DVD-VOD.
Today, theatrical represents approx. 33% of our income, vs 27% DVD, 20% TV, 20% VOD/SVOD. I think roughly the change from two years ago is a 20-25% decrease in DVD which has gone over to TV/VOD/SVOD internally.

Would Scanbox be interested in investing in the hot TV drama sector?
We do have three TV dramas in English language with major Scandinavian talents that have been in development for some years now. We have a model mixing European content with US co-financing and TV broadcaster. I can’t say more for now.

What have you learnt since you joined Scanbox?
My long time experience as independent producer has been a great advantage as I have an intimate knowledge of the entire filmmaking process. That allows me to work closely with producers and help them get a realistic view of the marketplace. I have also learnt a lot on the booking and marketing side, the importance of letting a film project grow and find its audience.
What I enjoy now is the distance from a project. As a producer, you tend to be too close to your film. In distribution, you need to step back, zoom out and know your market. 

List of Scanbox upcoming Nordic films:
- Emma & Julemanden (Emma & Santa Claus) by Søren Frellesen -Deluca Film. November 12 release.
- I blodet by Rasmus Heisterberg - Profile Pictures. Shooting now.
The Neon Demon by Nicolas Winding Refn – Space Rocket Nation. Filming wrapped in June and delivery is set for 2016.
Aminas brev by Jacob Bitsch -Toolbox Films. Shooting end of August.

I Remember You by Óskar Thór Axelsson-Zik Zak Filmworks. Shooting in October.
Breath Normally by Isold Uggadóttir –Zik Zak Filmworks. Shooting 2016.


My Skinny Sister (Min lilla Syster) by Sanna Lenken –Tangy Film. September 18 release.
Under the Pyramid (Under Pyramiden) by Axel Petersén-Idyll Film. Early 2016 release


Moskus by Bobbie Peers –Profile Pictures. Shooting 2016.