Cinemas must continue to fear for their existence

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How are cinemas doing nationwide? An interview with the CEO of HDF Kino shows that the crisis is far from over.

Because of the corona pandemic, cinemas in Germany had to close for months. Now they are open again. But the crisis is far from over, as Christine Berg from the German Film Theater Association (HDF Kino) reports in an interview with the German Press Agency. The biggest problem is the distance regulations. But there are still plenty of high-traffic films. The future could look bleak.

Since the beginning of the month, all cinemas across Germany have been able to open again. Do you have a first assessment of this? What about visitor numbers?

Every week more cinemas open and the number of visitors increases, which makes us very happy. In the last week we had over 200,000 visitors and with the children’s film “My girlfriend Conny” and Christian Petzold’s “Undine” we also had a few new starts. The audience thanks the cinemas that in addition to the classics, new, exciting films can now be seen. However, we also have to be honest: We have a 85 percent drop in visitors compared to the previous year. We still have a long way to go!

What role do the distance rules play in keeping most seats in a cinema locked?

Answer: The distance control is our biggest problem. There are still different requirements in the federal states, sometimes there is a limit to the number of people, sometimes there is also a requirement for a mask in the hall. The 1.50 meter distance in the hall continues. This is not understandable for us, because people who go to the cinema sit and look ahead. There is no talking, no singing or anything like that. In our neighboring countries Austria, Switzerland and France, cinemas and theaters are only a meter away. But if we continue to be on the market with less than 20 percent capacity utilization, larger films with high audience will still be missing. It is a vicious cycle that we must break through if we want to preserve the diversity of cinemas.

What are the demands of the cinema operators on politics?

With regard to the distance rules, we have a big colleague with the Minister of State, Monika Grütters, who campaigns everywhere for the reduction to one meter. Now the federal states are challenged. It is not understandable why they cannot find a uniform regulation.

For several weeks now, new films have been released regularly. Is the current offer enough to draw enough visitors to the cinemas?

Answer: We are pleased that there are now the first new films that are also luring visitors to the cinema. But that’s far from enough. For the cinema, but also for the audience, it is essential that more high-profile films will be coming very soon. France is leading us. Two French films are launched here at short intervals. We, too, are now increasingly focusing on German film and hope that the discussions with the distributors will lead to the ability to show large new films in a timely manner. After all, it is in the interest of everyone involved that the cinema gets going again.

How important would big Hollywood productions be? How dependent is the German cinema landscape ultimately on the international situation?

Of course there is a dependency on the blockbusters, but we should not underestimate our own German films. Here are some exciting films, such as the new Sönke Wortmann film “Contra”, the novel adaptation “Drachenreiter” or “Catweazle” with Otto Waalkes. European film also offers surprises that we can look forward to.

Minister of Culture Monika Grütters has already pledged financial aid to the nationwide program cinemas. Is that enough?

In a second stage, the Minister of State for Culture and the government will now include all other cinemas in the funding programs. This is an important step and will definitely help! Now the focus is on getting the game going again so that we do not remain dependent on funding.

But what if nothing changed in the current situation? How many cinemas do you think may need to file for and close bankruptcy by the end of the year?

If our capacity utilization remains at the same level as a result of the spacing regulations and the high-profile films are still missing as a result, we will lose a significant proportion of the cinemas. In the past few months, the film theaters have used up their reserves and exhausted loans. Now sales have to be made again, otherwise we will lose the nationwide cinema landscape in Germany and thus an important motor of the film industry.

What would that mean for us as cinema-goers and film fans?

That would mean that in many places there will be no cinema within reach and you can only watch films on TV at home. That would wipe out the pleasure of cinema.

Interview: Aliki Nassoufis, dpa

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