The influential Danish Cinema Club has posted a record 211,000 members for its new season and continues to boost Danish cinema attendance. 

At a time when cinemas suffers heavy competition from other film consumption and entertainment platforms, Biografklub Danmark (BKD) which often influences theatrical distribution strategies in Denmark, shows no sign of waning. On the contrary - set up 25 years ago, BKD’s selection committee picks ten quality films each season, offered half price against an annual DKK 98 membership fee. Members can also attend six premieres a year and have various booking and cultural advantages.

For this year, the cinema club has just announced an all time record of 211,000 members. Over the last 15 years, total membership have neared 180,000 and only once before has it passed 200,000 during the 2012/2013 season, when Susanne Bier's All You Need is Love, Bille August’s Marie Krøyer and Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-nominated The Hunt were presented. 

Frederik Honoré, director of Nordisk Film Distribution Denmark explains the Club’s unique strength on the Danish theatrical market: “The cinema club has managed to get an adult audience back into the cinemas. An audience segment that otherwise would have stopped attending - mainly because they had children and thus did not feel they had time and could afford it,” he told  “The half-price concept of selected ten quality films on fixed dates throughout the year has in all its simplicity shown its strength and all films that form part of the Club benefit from its scheme, even though a number of tickets are sold half price. We even see a tendency that the regular cinema-going of the club members has a positive effect on other films that are not part of the Club. In other words, club members tend to watch more films in cinemas as a whole."

BKD's managing director Lykke Lind Thomsen said: "At a time when global streaming services and entertainment platforms are offering non-stop entertainment and information, it is encouraging to see that cinema continues to be such an important part of Danes' cultural choices. Biografklub Danmark is a unique project that many countries envy us. It is quite unusual for such a strong collaboration to be established between all cinemas, producers and film distributors," notes Thomsen. 

Elsewhere in the Nordics, only Norway has set up a similar initiative in 2016:  Kinoklubbben which has 40,000 members and relies on a network of 86 cinema venues across the country. 

The 2019-2020 BFK season includes five Danish films: 

  • Niels Arden Oplev’s Daniel (August 25 release, Nordisk Film) that has now sold 461,936 tickets, making it the second biggest Danish film of 2019.  
  • the Avaz brothers drama Collision starring Nicolaj Lie Kaas (October 31, Nordisk Film), number 1 film at last weekend’s Danish top 10 
  • Anders Refn’s historical film Into the Darkness (January 9, 2020, Scanbox) starring Jesper Christensen, Bodil Jørgensen 
  • Jesper W. Nielsen’s thriller The Exception (April 30, 2020, SF Studios) starring Danica Ćurčić, Sidse Babette Knudsen, Lene Maria Christensen, Amanda Collin 
  • Christina Rosendahl’s The Good Traitor (June 18, 2020, SF Studios) starring Ulrich Thomsen and Mikkel Boe Følsgaard.

Other releases in BKD’s programme are the British films Downton Abbey, Knives Out, Little Women, Wild Rose and the US film Bombshell. 

We asked Biografklub Danmark’s managing director Lykke Lind Thomsen the secrets of their success.

What are the main reasons for BKD’s surge in membership?
Lykke Lind Thomsen: We see several reasons for this season’s increased membership. One is of course a strong selection of broad appealing, quality films. Again in this season the program consists of a combination of Danish and foreign film and gives the members a variety in genre and tone. Secondly BKD has a clear digital strategy with a higher focus on social media. The marketing campaign has reached a new and younger segment with relevant content. Lastly the awareness of BKD has been extended to new audiences with a new, broad distribution of the Club’s film programme (24-page catalogue) reaching a new 40+ segment distributing the catalogue together with 13 popular weekly and monthly lifestyle magazines at the start of the season. 

What is the profile of your core members?
LLT: With 211,000 members, we have a broad appeal among many age groups and all genders. BKD is a Cinema Club for an adult movie-going audience. The members are between 30 – 80 years old. The average member is female, 59; she is outgoing, enjoys spending time with friends, families and colleagues, she likes culture and naturally the movie going experience. We see a movement towards younger (30-35) female audiences this season.

You are celebrating 25 years. What have been the major changes in your organisation since you started?
LLT: It’s amazing to work in a 25-year old cinema club with so many happy and engaged members. Many have been members year after year and to them the club is a social network and an important part of their social and cultural life. We are constantly looking for ways to keep up with the times, evolving new technical services and solutions for the members in terms of how they store their vouchers and how we communicate to and with them.

What are the criteria in your selection process for each season? Is there a minimum number of Danish films that you have or want to select? 
LLT: BKD’s selection committee puts a lot of time and effort in finding the right film for each season. They are not looking for a special genre or a specific type of film, but a general high quality within each chosen film. The cinema club will have a minimum of two Danish films each season, but otherwise the origin of the film is not predefined. Last season, we had a great film from Iceland, Woman at War. Thanks to BKD the film ended up selling 79,000 cinema tickets in Denmark compared to the film’s performance in Sweden and Norway where the film had around 10,000 and 8,100 admissions in the respective territories. We see the same tendency with English-speaking films for instance The Wife sold 180,000 cinema tickets in Denmark alone, compared to 21,000 in Norway. 

Ultimately, the origin of the film is not why a film gets chosen for BKD. The crucial element is for the film to be of the highest quality. Giving the members a great movie experience on the big screen is what is important, whether it’s a local drama or an American comedy. 

How do you collaborate with producers/distributors?
LLT: We have a strong dialogue and collaboration with all parts of our local business. It’s essential for BKD to have a close relation to the Danish film industry, which is why producers, distributors and exhibitors all are represented in the Board of BKD. 

What do you need to help BKD sustain its memberships and activities?
LLT: It’s essential that all cinemas nationwide are part of the club’s offer, as it is today. Therefore a continuous strong cooperation with exhibitors, distributors and producers is important to make sure BKD stays ahead of its time and always offers the cinema audience great cinema experiences. 

How do you see cinema-going evolving in the next 3-5 years?
LLT: Despite an increase in new streaming services, we see a major interest for the cinema experience. BKD’s increased membership in the last two years is a sign that people continue to prioritise the big screen experience, but also that they value the community and social value of the cinema experience.  I believe that in the years to come, cinemas will still have an important role to play. Cinemas offer a film experience without interference or disturbance from e-mails or phone calls. At the same time, it’s a unique social experience. Nothing beats watching a great film in a packed theatre. Going to the cinema is a way to get engaged in storytelling and to ‘get lost’ for a while in a fictional world’.