The History of the Abaton cinema
In the 1970s Werner Grassmann and Winfried Fedder decided to take a risk and create the Abaton cinema which was one of the first Programmkinos in Germany. The history of the program cinema began in the 1920s on the East coast of the United States. The idea was to have a program which was geared more to an academic public and would include films that were Independent, Retrospective, Avant grade, Underground-cult films and Art house films. It also included music films, cultural films and documentaries. The cinema is still owned by the Grassmann family.
Abaton focuses on showing films in their original language with subtitles and lets the other cinemas cover the mainstream films. It has three screens and welcomes more than 220,000 visitors per year. The main cinema has 288 seats, the upper cinema has 140 seats and the small cinema, which is directly at the front door, holds 90 seats. The Abaton cinema is a member of the European Cinemas in the Media Program for the EU and the CICAE (The European film art theater association). In 1990 Matthias Elwardt took over the responsibility as the program director and in 2010 the Abaton won the award of Best European cinema of the year. Clearly Matthias Elwardt and his team are doing an excellent job in their programming which not only serves the university which is next door but the entire Hamburg community.
I just happen to hear from our Abaton bistro owner friends Ignazio Bononno and Andrea Loewe that there are big plans in the making to renovate the Abaton. The cinema rooms will not be touched but they do plan to change the projection booth, the bistro and most importantly the toilets. These long overdue changes are scheduled for this summer and, according to Bononno, the work will proceed during the day, but the cinema will still be open at night. That basically means no press showings during the renovation and it seems that they will have to handle the renovation mess using fine kit gloves in order not to annoy the public. Personally I would close the cinema for two weeks but that is up to the Grassmanns and their architects. I am excited to see the new makeover but have no idea what the color and style will be but it certainly will bring a breath of fresh air into this cinema.