The box office performance of buzzy awards season frontrunners like Poor Things and The Holdovers have taken a significant dent in Sweden as the AMC-owned Filmstaden, the country’s largest cinema chain, was unable to sell tickets to patrons due to a malicious cyber-attack.
Filmstaden and several local companies were struck down by the hack, which had originally been aimed at Swedish IT provider Tietoevry. Local media reports have identified the Russian-backed hacker group Akira as the perpetrator.
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From January 19-27, Filmstaden cinema locations were unable to sell tickets to screenings online or through its popular online app. The option to purchase snacks and soft drinks was also down. Visitors to Svenska Bio, a smaller boutique subsidiary of Filmstaden and Sweden’s second-largest chain, faced similar disruptions as their computers fell to the hack.
Guests who pre-booked tickets before the hack were not affected and could still use their tickets. A few days into the hack, Filmstaden managed to reboot its physical computers, and visitors could buy tickets but only onsite using Swish, a local mobile payment system. No cash or credit options could be used onsite. The hack was entirely cleared last Sunday.
“We don’t have the exact numbers yet, but my guess is there was a dip of somewhere around 25%,” said Peter Fornstam, CEO of Svenska Bio and Chairman of the Swedish Cinema Owners’ Association. When quizzed on whether local cinemas could be susceptible to similar attacks in the future, Fornstam simply responded: “Yes.”
“This could happen anywhere people are online. That’s how the world looks now, and I think everyone should prepare for things like this in the future,” he said.
The hack struck Filmstaden and Svenska Bio as local cinemas were gearing up to welcome larger crowds as buzzy awards season titles, including Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things and Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, opened in the region. While Fornstam said he believes the hack did indeed hurt the performance of both films, he was more concerned about how the prolonged hack would impact the release of smaller local films.
“I’m less worried about those kinds of movies because if audiences want to see them, they’ll find a way,” Fornstam said of Oscar-tipped titles like Poor Things and The Holdovers. “I think this is more damaging for movies like Stockholm Bloodbath, which had opened and will have a very quick run will be more affected.”
Directed by Mikael Håfström, best known for the Oscar-nominated Evil (2003), Stockholm Bloodbath is set in 1520 and follows the notorious and power-hungry Danish King Christian II, who is determined to seize the Swedish crown from Sten Sture, no matter what it takes. TrustNordisk is representing sales on the pic.
With 35 cinemas in 16 locations, Filmstaden is Sweden’s largest cinema chain. It’s part of the Odeon Cinemas Group, owned by AMC, the world’s largest cinema chain. In a statement following the conclusion of the hack, Malin Lundstedt, Operations Director at Filmstaden, said: “Soon, we will also be releasing tickets for one of this year’s blockbusters, Dune: Part Two, which opens in theaters on February 28, so we are really relieved that our digital sales channels are now up and running again.”
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