Operator Spotlight: Hilde Hem of Bok & Blueshuset Culture Center - Notodden, Norway

May 27, 2024
The DX Team
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Cinema: Bok & Blueshuset cultural centre 

Location: Notodden, Norway

Weekly Screenings: Between 34-40 screenings per week (a lot of schools programming) - 1,900 screenings a year

Yearly Admissions: 30,000

DX Adoption: 1998

Favorite Part of Working With DX

  • Even though DX has grown and grown as a company, our Customer Service remains really good and has never been compromised as we grow. 
  • Hilde trusts that whenever she calls, she will get help. 
  • She sleeps better at night after checking the DX platform! 

About Bok & Blueshuset cultural centre:

A multi-space, purpose-built cultural centre at the heart of Notodden, the Bok & Blueshuset combines a library, music centre and studio, cultural school, youth club, cafe/restaurant, cinema, theater and a club stage which also plays host to conferences and performances. 

The cinema makes up 20% of the overall annual attendance to the centre, with a varied programme of both blockbusters, children’s screenings, Norwegian, and international independent films.

Bok & Blueshuset in Winter

Meet Hilde, from cinema manager to cultural centre general manager

Hilde Hem is the overall Bok & Blueshuset general manager so has oversight of all the workings of the cultural centre, working with a team of managers dedicated to each area (library, cultural school, and supporting the cinema), as well as marketing and hardware support. Overall it is a team of 40 working across the whole centre.

Formerly a restaurant manager in Oslo, Hilde pivoted to working in the cultural sphere after moving to Telemark and landing a coveted position as Cinema Manager in Notodden in 2008. Hilde was fortunate to get this position straight after her studies as there is little movement in the local cinema industry. 

Notodden is a town of 13,000 and initially the cinema proved challenging as the technology hadn’t yet switched to digital and the cinema space wasn’t connected to other cultural spaces in the city (this was before the new Culture Center building was developed).

However, Hilde got to learn on the job, working within the wider cultural sector of the town, and also oversaw the transition to a new digital system in the cinema which completely changed what she was able to do: more interesting programming, more audience insights, and the ability to respond rapidly to demand and interest. Then came the building of the new Culture Center in 2014 which Hilde was involved in and subsequently became General Manager of that same year. 

By combining all the cultural city hotspots into one, purpose-built space with a welcoming, vibrant community hub, and a dedicated cafe and restaurant - space for people to meet and gather before or after a film - there was a lot more scope for creative cinema activity, welcoming new and larger audiences, and more community outreach and collaborations. Despite the challenge to deliver content all year for a small community, the centre provides much more opportunity to develop interesting and diverse programming and events. Connections with the library and schools outreach also means Hilde can engage with young people and run educational and schools programming. 

With screenings held 363 days a year, alongside all the other events, Hilde sees the Culture Center as a beacon of community engagement, enrichment, education, and collaboration. 

A day in the life…

Hilde's daily routine revolves around meeting the different  visitors who frequent the Culture Center, ensuring their needs are met for a fulfilling experience. As she oversees both the cinema, theatre, youth club, restaurant and events on site she tends to split her day / week into ‘aspects’ of the business to make it easier to manage, and of course relies on her team who support across the various areas. The key is making sure every element within the Cultural Centre gets its time in the spotlight without overwhelming customers with so much activity that they don’t know where to go. 

Hilde strongly believes in inclusivity, and aims to provide every guest, regardless of age, enriching experiences. She finds it particularly rewarding knowing that the events she and her team provide can impact every age, from 3 years old to 103!

Central to this vision is emphasising the concept of a unified cultural space: a true ‘Culture Center’ rather than separate components like a cinema or library. Through initiatives like "Film with Focus," each film becomes part of a broader thematic experience. Hilde enhances screenings and facilitates panel discussions related to ongoing relevant social topics and debate. By combining film and food, she offers screenings with a foodie theme combined with dedicated restaurant menus that bring a culinary experience to the audience. There’s even knitting clubs paired with movies at the Cultural Center – a variety of 360-degree immersion and participation opportunities for audiences.

The centre’s inclusive ethos is evident in its daily rhythm. The space welcomes both early-rising coffee drinkers (even before anything else is open) and late-night visitors who stay chatting long after an event. The Culture Center offers something for everyone and Hilde navigates the intricate calendar of events by balancing delicately the different focal points throughout the year where every part of the centre needs attention.

School children learning about special effects in film at Bok & Blueshuset cinema

Schools and young people outreach

One of Hilde’s biggest successes has been developing a really strong schools programme for the cinema. In the beginning, Hilde was ordering many films but not attracting enough school pupils. Over time, Hilde built relationships with the heads of each school, and got cinema integrated into the curriculum, from 1st grade in elementary school to high school - ensuring relevant programming that tied in with the school calendar. 

Filmmakers are also sent to schools as part of the partnership, to show students how films are made, the industry, cinema as a teaching arena, etc. Each grade learns a different aspect of the cinema world - like script-writing in 5th grade, meeting a director in 6th grade, etc.

By getting ahead of the curriculum being set, and making sure her film programme ties-in with what schools are planning, she makes everything easier for the teachers to coordinate and more relevant to the learning programme. 

Whilst Hilde tries to always get new films, and Norwegian / Scandinavian films, for the schools programme, she’ll occasionally tap into older movies if they are relevant to education strategy. 

Another point of pride for Hilde is the long tenure of her staff. When she first started working at the cinema staff turnover was high. Now she has many on the team that have worked with her for 8-10 years. She gives them autonomy, and a chance to learn different aspects of the business. Everyone works together harmoniously. Having the cinema integrated within a wider cultural centre means her cinema staff get to experience a broader range of business areas and cultural programming. 

Working with DX and our cinema solutions

The cinema in Notodden was the fifth in Norway to adopt DX back in 1998 (before the integration of the cinema into the new Cultural Centre building). DX and Hilde’s cinema operator career have developed side-by-side since then.

When the cinema transitioned from a one screen cinema to a two-screen full cultural centre, DX managed the TMS system transfer and integration which made everything easy.

Day to day Hilde uses DX features across all areas of the cultural center business: DX bookings system, the cinema solution where she can also upload other events, vitally important as she now works in an multi-space centre and needs oversight on all activity and a seamless management solution for the different aspects of the business.

All the teams across the cultural centre use DX and allows for seamless communication and management across and between teams as everything exists on the one platform, something Hilde finds really calming. 

Because of the strong customer support, whenever there is a challenge, there is always a quick way around it, or quick solution. 

Key takeaways?

  • When you can’t be everywhere at once, lean on your team and give them the autonomy to support you - especially in a multi-space centre where the cinema might just be one component. 

  • The DX solution allows you to manage all aspects of your cultural business, and can help you seamlessly plan and communicate with your team, so make sure they are also trained on it and comfortable using it!

  • Listen to what the audience needs and work with them to facilitate visitation - by integrating cinema programming directly into the school curriculum, Hilde secured better school attendance and more relevant films which worked out better for everyone. 

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