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The Network - 16/11/2007


Europa Cinemas Awards 2007: Best Programming





The Friedrichsbau cinema in the south-west university city of Freiburg had been operated by the "Palast-Betriebe Schmidt und Thiele" for almost 70 years before being taken over - along with the single-screen Kandelhof cinema - by locally born Michael Wiedemann in April 1998. In the 1970s, the Friedrichsbau was developed into a four-screen complex with the main cinema seating 300, the "Apollo 1" 180, and two smaller Apollo screens 52 and 39, respectively.
Wiedemann explains that he has "strong competition" from other cinemas in Freiburg, but he has always held true to his particular focus on European and German films in his programming. Recent films shown included the new Fatih Akin film The Edge Of Heaven, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution and smaller films such as En La Cama or Hounds.
He is also fortunate that Freiburg's citizens are Germany's most enthusiastic cinema-goers, with an average 4.5 visits per year and a total of 1.4 million tickets sold. While the Friedrichsbau centre numbers around 200,000 admissions per year, the Kandelhof on the city's outskirts in a residential area, with its single screen and 200 seats, attracts between 50,000 and 60,000.
Wiedemann points out that he could not now do without the programming awards the cinemas have regularly received from the German State Minister for Culture (BKM) and the regional film fund MFG in Baden-Württemberg and is grateful for the support he has received from the city of Freiburg for other initiatives such as the Freiburg Filmfest, held for the fourth time this summer. Billed as an audience festival, the Filmfest's ten days of screenings in the open-air Mensagarten venue and the Friedrichsbau attracted some 7,000 visitors in 2007.
Another innovative programming feature developed by Wiedemann is the fortnightly "Pay After" screening where a "surprise film" is shown and the audience are asked only after the screening to pay what they think the film is worth. For one film, Vaya Con Dios by Zoltan Spirandelli, "there was such an incredible euphoria and I faxed the audience response to the distributor. We ended up having the film's German premiere and playing it for more than a year!"
Looking back at almost ten years of running the two cinemas, Wiedemann says that his greatest experience was having the German rock poet legend Wolfgang Niedecken and Wim Wenders coming to personally introduce their music documentary Viel Passiert - Der BAP Film. "I was very moved," he recalls.
(November 2007)