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The Network - 12/12/2011


Europa Cinemas Awards 2011 - Best Programming


Europa Cinemas Awards 2011, Abaton Kino

Abaton Kino, Hamburg, Germany

"Film brings in the audience, and my job is to satisfy the audience with interesting, innovative films" – Matthias Elwardt

 Created in 1970 and operated by Matthias Elwardt for over 20 years, the Abaton was one of the first members of the Europa Cinemas Network, which it joined in 1994. A cultural point of reference in Hamburg, the cinema with three screens welcomes over 250,000 visitors per year. Fatih Akin's SOUL KITCHEN attracted over 33,000 viewers there in 2010.

Matthias Elwardt is part of the film selection team at the Berlin International Film Festival, but he's busy viewing films throughout the year at the European festivals. He pays particular attention to first films, which he endeavours to give a wider circulation: "Disseminating the works of young filmmakers means keeping up with the spirit of the times. It's also the best way to get young audiences into the theatres, and not just students from the campus next door." The Abaton also organises special screenings for the very young, in combination with practical workshops.

Joining the Network in 1994 enabled him to meet exhibitors from across Europe, to discuss problems related to exhibitioning and discover "that they're not so different from one country to the next." Since he can't see every film and so that none escapes his attention, Matthias Elwardt exchanges programming information with German-speaking exhibitors (in Germany, Switzerland and Austria): "It's even simpler in the age of websites and newsletters."

The Abaton is not yet digitally equipped. Matthias Elwardt stresses that there is still no official agreement on VPFs in Germany. Consequently he plans to install digital equipment in his theatre next year, once the issue of distributors' contributions has been resolved. Going digital would allow him to further implement his policy of screening original language films. Today the Abaton is the only cinema in Hamburg showing subtitled films in the original version, not an easy choice in a country where most films are released in dubbed versions.

Pictures: Matthias Elwardt and Karl Markovics (ATMEN), prize-giving ceremony