Swedish cinema chain caught in website controversy

Cinema operator SF Bio has outraged moviegoers and bloggers across Sweden by cutting ties with a popular website featuring movies listings and online booking.

As a result of the cinema giant’s move, the team behind has decided to cease operations.

“Because of SF’s unchallenged monopoly, the team behind Biotider has concluded that we no longer can offer what we set out to create: a website where complete information about movies and cinema in Sweden is gathered and presented in a user-friendly way as a service to movie-goers,” said Biotider’s founders in a statement posted on the site.

Since 2006, Swedish film buffs have used the site to get information on start times and movie offerings for cinemas across the country. The site also had links to information about upcoming films and movie reviews in Swedish newspapers.

In December, however, SF Bio began blocking Biotider’s access to its schedules and online booking system.

SF Bio defends its actions by arguing that details about when and where movies are showing in its cinemas isn’t public information.

“On the internet, content is important, and the content of our site includes screening times. Biotider has gone and taken this information and put it on its own site without first speaking to us. Therefore we’ve implemented these measures,” said SF Bio spokesperson Thomas Runfors to Svenska Dagbladet.

“It’s a matter of principle, they’re taking visitors from our website,” he continued. “They’re deep linking to our site and earning money from our content.”

But the move has created a backlash among cinema goers in the blogosphere.

The media blog Vassa Eggen states that SF reaction points to problems at the company and its approach to the internet economy.

“It would be as if [grocery chain] Coop only allowed customers to go to the pasta shelf and pick out spaghetti after forcing them to first look at the display window,” writes Vassa Eggen.

“It’s not only backwards and reactionary, but will also most certainly make it harder for SF to get faithful, satisfied customers.”

Svenska Dagbladet media critic Martin Jönsson is also critical of the move.

“If SF understands what’s in its own best interests, it will stop working against Biotider and instead thank them for their help. A site that loves movies so much can’t be bad for SF,” he wrote.

But SF Bio stands by its actions.

“Sometimes one has to make uncomfortable decisions,” said SF Bio’s Runfors. “They may seem ridiculous, but one has to see the whole picture.”