"It’s you sharing an experience with other people that you don’t know but you close everything else off."

For the tenth edition of Big Screen Feature - providing a behind-the-scenes look at the world of cinema exhibition through the eyes of professionals themselves - Peter Fornstam (Founder & Managing Director, Svenska Bio & Chairman, The Swedish Exhibitors’ Association) discusses the job itself and the value of the Big Screen.

Describe your typical day at work
I’m an early bird. I wake up by 6 am, grab my night notes, iPhone and the morning paper and make a cup of coffee while flipping through the emails from the night. I deal quite a lot with LA since I sit on the board of SF Studios and also chair the Nordic part of FilmFinances so if there is anything that has appeared during the night I might make a quick call since they haven’t gone to bed yet or I shoot a quick email to clarify something I have to deal with during the day in Stockholm. Once the coffee has given me the necessary wake up and I’m done with emails and morning paper, I shave, shower and get dressed quickly and dash to the office.

Since I’m not a big breakfast eater I stop at my favourite bakery at Lidingo. Our head office is in a suburb close to Stockholm which has its own city limits. Not trying to be cute, but the mostly residential Lidingo is sometimes referred to as the Beverly Hills of Stockholm. I buy a sandwich that I will eat around 10 when hunger kicks in.

If I really want to treat myself, I stop by Larsson’s Plat, a mechanical workshop who does a lot of work for us, for example a rail for a balcony or a box-office desk for a cinema. I feel joy seeing the handicraft they do and talking about some practical details when they tailor stuff for us. Once I get into the office I drop my bag at my desk and make the second cup of coffee (this I swear, Swedes are the second biggest coffee drinking nation in the world after Finland) and I go to greet our COO Ake Hedlund. It doesn’t matter what time I get in; he gets in before me and cycles for 40 minutes to get there! By the time we meet, last night’s box-office numbers are in and we chat about those and what we must get done for the day. We’ve worked together for over 25 years and I trust him like a brother. Across his desk sits our CFO, John, who also happens to be Ake’s son - we’re a family operation after all. I chat with Ingela and Linda who run programming for our theatres and then walk by whoever is there, bookkeeping and so forth. Thinking about it, most people in my office get in early.

We are not a big office, slightly north of a dozen people, so it doesn’t take forever to say hi to everybody. Once at my desk I pull out my night notes and my handwritten to-do-list. I’m the kind of person who needs to write things down but once written, I usually always remember it, with or without the list. Night notes is the fun part. Sometimes as I wake up during the night I write things down that I want to remember the day after on a piece of paper that I always keep close to my bed but I do it in the dark to not wake my wife up. My handwriting is bad to start with, so it does not help that the notes are written in the dark. Often, I need to spend some time to figure out what I wrote and then move them to the to-do-list.

Once that’s done, I start to field calls. I’m old school and prefer to call people to discuss the problem rather than write emails and copy a zillion people. I prefer to spend my days at my desk making calls and writing emails and to not have too many meetings while in Stockholm. During the day, I speak to landlords, cinema managers, suppliers, office colleagues - you name it, but also to my wife and a friend or two. It’s important to never ever forget family or friends.

If I don’t have a business lunch Ake will pick-up a halloumi burger for me or I will go with one of my two kids, Suzanna and Gabriel - who work at the company -, to a restaurant. Since I visit our cinemas and travel abroad so much, I really enjoy the days I can spend at the office.

Around five in the afternoon when people start to leave and it gets a bit quieter, I get to read through stuff I’ve gathered, write something which needs a little more attention or do a call which might need some extra time. I try to leave the office so I can be home around 7pm to have dinner with my wife, who is a great chef. After dinner she and I sometimes take a walk just to get some fresh air and enjoy the beauty of living in Stockholm and once back at the apartment, I watch the news and maybe spend a little time at my desk. Once it’s bedtime I try to read a little before enjoying a good night’s sleep.

The moment you fell in love with the Big Screen?
I think the time I feel in love with the Big Screen was when I was in a packed cinema seeing The Jungle Book when I was 13 years old. That memory remains.

The best thing about the cinema experience?
The best thing about the cinema experience is that you concentrate and get into the picture and you forget everything else, it’s you sharing an experience with other people that you don’t know but you close everything else off.

I think this is becoming more and more important in a world where so much is going on at the same time and you are supposed to multitask.

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