If tomorrow you wanted to watch Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, or Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935), this is easy to accomplish in Hamburg when you enter the cornucopia of cinema delights located at the corner of Grindelallee 37. Cinethek Filmgarten offers more than 10,000 separate titles—less than a handful of stores in Germany can make this claim—covering every genre that customers may browse through. The European term cinethek signals the store has great movie selections to rent, and the unique word filmgarten (garden) is the store’s creation to represent their “garden of beautiful films.”
Kilian Krause, who bought the store a few years ago, told me anyone may submit a title for consideration (I did), which is first checked for availability (mine wasn’t); then the significance of the film to their movie archive is carefully weighed. The vast number of otherwise hard-to-get-a-hold-of films is the biggest difference between chain rental stores and the dwindling number of privately owned video stores; I know of a couple long-lasting stores in Hamburg, one specialized in English language films, that have closed. Mr. Krause admits, “Videothek’s can only survive if they incorporate other businesses”. His diversifications under one roof include: a copy shop; computer hardware, software and repair; buying and selling records, music and film CDs and DVDs; audio books to rent and a Post office branch. “Cinethek is only a part of the whole (company).”
A concern of his is a new style of renting films, video-on-demand, that is “coming fast and big”. The premise is that films may be rented (downloaded) through the Internet for an allotted amount of time (normally 24 hours). This could be the death of videotheks. Although the industry says they will safeguard coping, etcetera, Mr. Krause is not convinced, citing the problematic situation that has developed with downloading music. By the time the industry “figures it out,” we may not have independent film rental stores to turn to: one less option, one more hassle, all in the name of relaxation.
So let’s enjoy and support our “independents” in Hamburg. It makes sense that Cinethek Filmgarten is conveniently located around the corner from one of the last, thriving independent cinemas, the Abaton.