There are two cinemas that at first glance could hardly be more different – the Filmpalast at the ZKM and the Karlsruhe Kinemathek. Both of them, however, were able to open their doors to film fans of all kinds for the first time on July 1st. The rush to the respective cinemas, however, differed significantly.
The very first film recording was shown in Karlsruhe in 1896, just one year after the world’s first cinema was set up. Seen in this way, the Fcherstadt has a long tradition in relation to the art of moving images. Karlsruhe’s film fans were all the harder hit when the cinemas had to shut down when the lockdown began.
“First weekend was overwhelming”
Since July 1st, however, thanks to the opening steps initiated, film culture has returned to Karlsruhe. In an interview with ka-news.de, two cinemas of different types reported on their first open week after the fallow Corona months: The Filmpalast at the ZKM and the city’s own film art studio, the Kinemathek. Both speak of a thoroughly successful opening weekend.
“We were really surprised by the great popularity of the visitors,” says Tilman Bandel, Theater Director of the Filmpalast. “The first weekend was downright overwhelming.” Some screenings, including films shown at noon, were completely sold out in the first week. And judging by the advance booking numbers, we expect the coming weekend to be very strong too, “adds Bandel.
In contrast, the Kinemathek did not offer such an array of starved cineastes. “The first weekend was rather slower for us,” says Michael Endepols, who is responsible for the program there. In his opinion, “word of the reopening of the cinematheque must first get around before more guests take advantage of our film offer”. However, the number of regular guests who appeared was satisfactory.
According to this number of visitors and the capacity of the company’s own staff, there were also different hygiene measures and safety precautions.
Mask, no compulsory test – compulsory test, no mask
“We played under corona conditions for six months,” says theater director Bandel on behalf of the 70-man film palace. “As a result, our team has already adjusted to the Corona regulations.” All employees were briefed accordingly and set up the cinema as corona-safe as possible. “We make sure that the distance is kept uninterrupted. To do this, we also lead the groups of visitors into the hall or mark the floor.”
The number of permitted visitors was also limited for this purpose. “We are currently allowing 250 people per cinema to keep the distance.” Of course, distance is not the only precaution against the risk of infection: “There is always a mask requirement”, as Bandel emphasizes, “unfortunately also during the presentation, as the current regulation prescribes. For this we are able to undergo a vaccination test – or to waive proof of recovery. “
In the Kinemathek, on the other hand, almost complementary security regulations apply: “We only issue tickets in exchange for a negative corona test or proof of vaccination or recovery,” says Michael Endepols. “However, a mask does not have to be worn during the performances. With our 15 employees, we probably wouldn’t be able to check whether all visitors were always wearing masks anyway.”
Since at the moment mainly regulars were visiting the cinematheque, it would be easier to take care of the safety precautions. “I know many of our regular guests by name,” says Endepols, “many of them are older and have been vaccinated twice. That and the comparatively small number of our guests make it easier to keep track of the security checks.”
The program manager sees the reason for this lower number of visitors compared to cinemas such as the Filmpalast primarily in the content of the program shown.
Blockbusters versus independent films
In contrast to the Filmpalast, which offers modern blockbuster cinema, the Kinemathek deals with films that, according to Endepols, “do not yet have great commercial potential”. This included art house films, examples from film history and productions by local filmmakers from Karlsruhe and Baden. In their so-called ‘gatekeeper function’, all films would be selected by the staff at the Kinemathek according to their own quality criteria.
The Filmpalast, on the other hand, with its “mixture of current German and Hollywood films” is simply more suitable for the masses, according to Endepol. Tilman Bandel also confirms that many productions by internationally successful film studios are currently very well received. This fact also has its downsides, however, because the sheer number of new releases sometimes makes it difficult for customers to decide on a film.
A rapid increase in new releases
The large number of newly started films is also due to the virus, as theater director Bandel explains: “We stick to fresh goods as far as the Filmpalast’s program is concerned,” he said, “and there were a lot of films during the pandemic either while shooting have been put on hold or could not be shown due to the lockdown, most of them are only starting now that the incidences are declining. “
Despite this rapid increase, the Filmpalast does not want to leave out any new releases. “That means, however, that we can no longer show older films – namely those that came out during the lockdown and therefore may have received little response.” Opposite is the business model of the film art studio Kinemathek.
A Karlsruhe streaming service
“During the lockdown, we maintained a streaming service so that we could still show the films that would otherwise have been lost in the lockdown,” reports Michael Endepols. “We will continue to offer this service. Nevertheless, we plan to bring the older films from the months of the lockdown to the screen alongside the newer ones.” Of course, this would not be possible if the Kinemathek were not able to select the most interesting ones from the multitude of new starts.
“I am very happy that we can show the films in the cinema again as well as streaming them,” said Michael Endepols. “After all, in the cinema you get a little bit out of the loneliness of lockdown. You watch films that may not be shown everywhere, meet like-minded people and exchange ideas. For me, cinema has a social function as well as cultural.”