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Interview with Dieter Hertel of the Filmbühne: "Some cinemas will not survive this"

Interview with Dieter Hertel of the Filmbühne : "Some cinemas will not survive this"

For more than thirty years Dieter Hertel has been running the Filmbühne and Rex cinemas in Bonn. In an interview he talks about the effects of the Corona crisis and about new concepts in the film industry.

When did you last sit in a cinema?

Dieter Hertel: Yesterday. I get films sent to me that will be released soon. Since there are no press screenings, I can watch them alone or with my staff.

And what was the last film that had an audience in your cinemas?

Hertel: That was "Und morgen die ganze Welt". It ran for four days before we had to close on November 2. That was the most successful film in recent times, not only in our cinemas but in many other cinemas as well. It was even nominated for an Oscar as best international film. It is a pity that the run on the film was stopped.

There is probably not much for you to do at the moment. How do you spend your time?

Hertel: I cycle a lot, at least two hours every day, no matter what the weather is like. I read, listen to music, cook and watch a film now and then. But of course I also have to deal with applications for aid money. The digital projectors have to start up for two hours every fortnight, I have to turn on the heating so that the water pipes don't freeze. So there is always a little bit to do.

Speaking of federal and state aid: How satisfied are you with it?

Hertel: Everything works very well and very quickly with the bridging aid. It took a maximum of 14 days for the money to arrive. Unfortunately, there is no short-time work allowance for temporary workers who are only marginally employed. They play a big role in the cinema and the catering trade. That is hard. You either have to finance them yourself or terminate the employment relationship. But I don't want to complain. We are supported, I think that's great. It also shows that politicians take the situation of cinemas seriously.

At the beginning of the pandemic, you said that if the cinemas were to remain closed in autumn, it would be a disaster? How do you see it now?

Hertel: In the summer, not nearly as many people came to the cinema as we had hoped. Then the audience figures are low anyway, and that will also be the case next summer. Now the cinemas can't build up reserves in winter as they usually do - to compensate for the summer. Some cinemas will not survive that. But there was a crisis in cinema even before Corona, and Corona has made it worse.

Why do people no longer come to the cinema?

Hertel: The generation that grew up with the internet has not experienced the importance and value of cinema any more. They don't even miss the cinema when it is no longer there.

Do they experience a lot of solidarity from their audience?

Yes, but not as strongly as in March. People are only buying vouchers that have been postponed. Maybe because they still have the ones from spring. But we are now running a campaign where people can buy a voucher at the box office on Sundays. Because there are many people who don't buy tickets online. We then also offer older film posters for sale.

Warner has announced that films will also be released on a streaming platform next year for the cinema release. Will that exacerbate the crisis in the cinema?

It will be especially hard on the big cinemas that live off blockbusters. But with the films, it is like having a track with a stopper on it at the moment. New films are constantly rolling in until the track is full. The distributors can't leave all the finished films on stockpile. They have to come out at some point. In the beginning there was the perspective: we'll wait a few more months, then we'll name dates. That perspective is no longer there now. No one knows when cinemas all over the world will reopen. So now they set the dates and the cinemas that are open can show them.

Do you think this concept will establish itself after Corona?

Yes. Disney, however, did not have such a good experience with the release of the film Mulan on the net. It turns out that the people on the internet portals rather watch series than movies. The cinema industry has always said that it is their death if the films are shown directly on the internet. The fear is certainly not unfounded. But I think that watching a film in the cinema is still something different than watching it at home. And the producers also know that cinemas are still an important financial factor.

The cultural industry has also put a lot of effort into making their events safe, does it annoy you that they were the first to close?

It is a pity. Because if there is a hygiene concept, there is no danger of getting infected. Now it turns out that the number of infections is not rising, but it is not falling either. Apparently people are more likely to get infected in private than at the cinema. Or as on Saturday in the city centre: When there was a lot of activity.

What do you think about the fact that people are currently pouring into department stores while cinemas are not allowed to open?

Sure, that's not okay. People want to deal with culture. The situation is also existential for many artists who cannot produce. Having cinemas and theatres open is also based on an economic calculation: The cultural sector contributes 1.6 percent to the gross national product. So it is not surprising that people say that we should do without them first. But we are also supported and not left alone financially. This must be said quite clearly.

Which film are you looking forward to when the cinemas open again?

To Ammonite with Kate Winslet. But many other films are also very interesting and cannot see the light of day at the moment. It is frustrating: for the audience, for me. It's like having a shop window with really great cakes, but you can't sell them. At some point they will have to throw the cake away.