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SF Studios Boss Discusses ‘A Man Called Otto,’ Production Strategy

SF Studios, the 104-year old Nordic giant, has crashed into the awards season with Tom Hanks’ “A Man Called Otto,” which it produced with Playtone and fully financed.

Buzzed about as a potentially strong Oscar candidate since its first official screening in L.A. last week, the Sony Pictures film is a remake of “A Man Called Ove,” the Swedish hit also produced by SF Studios. The 2015 film, adapted from Fredrik Backman’s global bestseller, earned two Oscar nominations.

SF Studios’ CEO and president Michael Porseryd told Variety that the $50-million film with Hanks underscores the banner’s commitment to theatrical movies and its drive to own intellectual property rights for content it finances.

“The biggest difficulty we’re facing right now is to get audiences back into theaters, but when a movie works in cinemas, the payback is much bigger than when dealing with a streamer,” said Porseryd, who added that SF Studios was also committed to working with streamers. “They are very important to us as well because they’re allowing us to develop content on a much higher scale,” he continued. 

The executive said crowd-pleasers like ‘A Man Called Otto’ boast the “rare potential to become blockbusters.” That said, the company doesn’t have a specific strategy to make as many English-language movies of that scope because they require “a lot of efforts and resources” but will “instead look at it opportunistically,” Porseryd explained.

Porseryd pointed that “A Man Called Otto” marks one of the first remakes delivered by the original producer. This year’s best picture winner “CODA” is another recent example.

“When we got a call from Tom Hanks’ office we were stunned — after all, he’s one of the world’s biggest stars and also one of the most beloved by all generations,” said Porseryd, who hosted a gala premiere for the movie on Dec. 13 in Stockholm with Hanks, Mariana Treviño, director Marc Forster, Wilson, Truman Hanks and SF Studios’ producer Fredrik Wikström Nicastro on hand.

The executive said Hanks and Wilson were eager to make the film with SF Studios and got them involved every step of the way, while they spearheaded all creative decisions.

The banner made its English-language debut with “Horizon Line,” a disaster movie starring Allison Williams which was released in the middle of the pandemic and bombed at the B.O. But “A Man Called Otto” is a world appart.

“A Man Called Otto” will be widely released by SF Studios across the Nordics in a month. The company is having a banner 2022 with another comedy “The Bonus Family,” a movie produced by its Swedish label FLX. A spinoff the hit TV show by the same name, “The Bonus Family” is currently topping the year’s box office.

“We’re going to keep our focus on Nordic production and distribution with a mix of light-hearted movies and big-budget action-adventure movies,” said Porseryd, citing “The Abyss,”  a female-driven Swedish disaster film directed by Richard Holm (“Johan Falk”). The movie chronicles the tragic events that took place in the mining town of Kiruna. SF Studios has also started to expand is Danish production pipeline. The Danish box office is one of Scandinavia’s healthiest markets.

The SF Studios boss said the company, which sold its exhibition business many years ago, is aiming to produce in-house two times more movies per year. “Our industry is changing so rapidly and being producers allows us to control more of the rights which is key,” said Porseryd. 

The company has also highly busy working with streamers on a raft of TV series and select movies, such as “Red Dot,” Netflix’s first Swedish movie, as well the Danish thriller “Loving Adults,” costume drama “Ehrengard” and acclaimed Swedish series “Snabba Cash” for Netflix, and has partnered up with Viaplay on “The Åre Murders,” an anticipated series based the Swedish crime novels penned by bestselling author Viveca Sten (“The Sandhamn Murders”).

The Nordic banner, which is now equally involved in films and TV series, is working with REinvent International Sales.

“A Man Called Otto” will be released globally by Sony Pictures on Jan. 13.

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