While box-office figures are down in many markets in Europe, the US and elsewhere, Norwegian cinema has already posted a record share of its home market this year.
Local releases clocked nearly 2.7 million admissions through early December, the highest tally for the Norwegian production industry in 36 years.
National films accounted for 24.6 per cent of the market, an all-time record, after peaking at 58 per cent in September: levels of popularity that would be a wet dream for Australian filmmakers.
By contrast, the 31 Australian features and docus released in Oz through early December earned a total of $39 million, of which Red Dog raked in more than $21 million.
That will likely mean Oz titles will account for about 3.5 per cent of the local market, or a bit higher depending on how Happy Feet Two opens on December 26, assuming the B.O. matches last year's total of $1.13 billion.
Maybe there's a message for Screen Australia and other funding bodies in how he Norwegian Film Institute nurtures and supports its production sector. And perhaps a lesson for Australian filmmakers in how their Norwegian counterparts manage to consistently engage with audiences.
“Norwegian films cannily address their local conditions and burning issues of the day, usually presenting them in intense and unpretentious ways,” Peter Cowie, a noted expert on Nordic cinema, told SBS Film.
The founder of the International Film Guide and author of numerous books including tomes on Ingmar Bergman and Scandinavian cinema, Cowie said, “The Norwegian Film Institute has proved astute in supporting domestic productions in recent years. Norway is proving that, just as their nation can survive nicely without belonging to the European Union, so their cinema can flourish without too much dependence on export markets."
The Norwegian B.O. has been boosted by a slew of local productions including Arne Lindtner Næss's Magic Silver 2 - The Quest for the Mystic Horn (pictured), the country's first live action 3D feature, a spin-off from a TV series and stage play; Niels Nørløv's comedy The Reunion; Pål Sletaune's thriller Babycall starring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace; Arild Østin Ommundsen's Twigson in Trouble; and A Funny Man, Martin Zandvliet's biopic of legendary Danish comedian Dirch Passer.
The nation's biggest locally-minted blockbuster this year, Morten Tyldum's Headhunters, which sold more than 518,000 tickets, will be released in Australia in March by Rialto. Summit Entertainment has just secured English remake rights to the saga based on a Jo Nesbo novel about Norway's most successful corporate headhunter who plans a major art heist.
Ticket sales for national films in 2011 are the highest since 1975 when Ivo Caprino's Pinchcliffe Grand Prix helped propel attendances to 3.8 million.
In 2010, Norwegian films accounted for nearly 2.5 million admissions and a 23.2 per cent share of the market. During the first six months of this year, its theatrical market registered the largest growth in Europe, according to Cineuropa.
Through early December, admissions were up 5.6 per cent on the same period in 2010.
Which gives the Norwegian film industry plenty to celebrate as it marks its 100th anniversary.