Norwegian film production and viewing is based on state funding support and municipal operation of cinemas. In such a small language community, where private investment capital and earnings potential are limited, there would be no film industry without official public support. Toward the end of the 1990s, however, it became apparent that the support mechanisms needed modernizing. A significant restructuring was undertaken in the summer of 2001. Despite pressure to alter and privatize municipal cinema operations, however, it appears that these will currently remain unchanged.
Norwegian film policy is designed to ensure the production and availability of a wide range of high-quality audiovisual works. With this in mind, the Storting (Norwegian national assembly) has defined a number of specific goals relating to public support for, general access to and the creative development of high-quality Norwegian audiovisual productions.
The Norwegian Film Institute is a government agency under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs. It was established in 1956 and reorganized in 1993 to preserve and restore Norwegian audiovisual productions, to distribute and screen films in Norway, and to draw attention to the Norwegian film industry both at home and abroad through participation in festivals and support for the sale of Norwegian films abroad. Two of the institute’s most important tasks comprise cultivating international interest in Norwegian films serving as the national film archives. In 2004, the Norwegian Film Institute was the first in the world to launch a video on-demand service for digital, broadband distribution of Norwegian film heritage. At present, some 400 films are available for Internet distribution to private households, and as IP-TV to schools and libraries.
The 2001 shift in film policy also resulted in the establishment of the Norwegian Film Fund, which was given sole responsibility for granting state funds to film production.
In addition to administering grant schemes for feature films, documentaries and short films, the fund provides grants based on ticket sales as well as development support to production companies. It also funds the Norwegian Film Commission and projects related to Eurimages and Media Desk Norway. The Norwegian Film Fund received close to NOK 270 million (approx. EUR 34.5 million) in 2006 for distribution for film and television purposes, and its efforts are primarily directed towards independent Norwegian film producers.
Activities to enhance the creativity and expertise of the film industry are primarily the responsibility of a third government institution, Norwegian Film Development together with the Norwegian Film School.
The overall responsibility for the film sector is thus divided three ways: The Norwegian Film Institute is in charge of preserving, distributing and marketing Norway’s film heritage; the Norwegian Film Fund distributes allocations; and Norwegian Film Development promotes the development of professional expertise. This new line of cultural-policy thinking has resulted in more confidence in the private investment potential of Norwegian film, a doubling of feature film production and a surge in ticket sales for Norwegian films.
Norway adopted its first act of legislation relating to cinema operations in 1913 as a result of public concern over the ability of motion pictures to influence audiences. The act had two main aims: to ensure adequate national monitoring of films for public consumption and to impose stricter controls on the industry itself as well as on film distribution. The act made it possible for municipalities to assume responsibility for movie theatre operations. The result was a unique system of municipal cinemas that pushed private players out of the market.
The organization Film&Kino (formerly the National Association of Municipal Cinemas) represents the interests of Norwegian municipalities in cinema operations and film and video issues. It also serves as the trade association for cinema and video enterprises. The organization administers the Norwegian Cinema and Film Foundation as well as the Mobile Cinema, and publishes the periodical Film & Kino. It helps Norwegian cinemas to operate as competitive enterprises within the cultural sphere in local communities, and works to enhance the professional and cultural level of the video market.
There has been a longstanding public debate over Norway’s municipal cinema system. Private cinemas are also in operation, and the debate seems to have cooled at present. Currently, more energy is being focused on equipping the industry for the transition to fully digital film viewing in the course of a few years. Two projects for D-cinema have been launched in Norway for 2006, and a number of cinemas will soon be digitalized.