Bavaria’s smallest cinema is located in Hollfeld in Franconian Switzerland. In the corona pandemic, Pocorn fights for survival by the window.
“Moving here,” says Winfried Hartl, “was the best decision of my life.” Others would say that he had moved to a no man’s land: to Hollfeld, in the middle of Franconian Switzerland. As far as possible from the larger cities of Nuremberg, Bamberg and Bayreuth. In Franconian Switzerland there are beautiful rocks and rustic inns, narrow valleys and lush meadows – a romantic dream of a fairy tale. But live here?
Better not if every concert, every theater, every dance event, every cinema is an hour’s drive away. Stop. “Every cinema” is not correct. Bavaria’s smallest is in Hollfeld Programmkino. And because Winfried Hartl, 72 years old, a former physicist in the service of Siemens Erlangen, lives only fifty meters from the cinema, he is now the chairman of the association Kintopp friends Hollfeld. Without it, the cinemas would no longer exist. Hartl is the cinema crisis manager.
Around 5,000 people live in the municipality of Hollfeld. The cinema is slightly elevated and is easy to find thanks to generous signage. The rust-red facade is overgrown with wild wine, which already extends its fingers in the direction of the sign with the nostalgic lettering.
With a country cinema from the 1950s, one thing is of course important: you have to look at its age, and necessary modernizations must not cover it up. The foyer passes the test. Orange-colored wallpaper with white pattern: check, milky bag lamps: yes, a cigarette machine in the shape of a projector, that too. On the door hang signs with slogans. “We will be back because we will get what has been so painstakingly built,” says one.
Winfried Hartl points to an old sign for which no space has yet been found. “Our latest cellar find,” he says, presenting the inscription: “Smoking prohibited by the police during the film event”. The hall itself – there is only one – is spacious. 170 seats. Also here: bag lamps from the time, green wall covering, also original. Chairs upholstered in green, red in front, taken over from the Bayreuth town hall in 2016. Kinofan Hartl has placed two in the private living room.
Now Hartl points towards the screen: “There used to be a gutter. After the performance, the hall was simply sprayed clean. ”Outside, in front of the conservatory-like annex, which serves as a bistro, you can talk at a distance. The cinema had to close in mid-March.
Ruth Dormann, 56, managing director, one of two full-time employees, says: “At the beginning I thought it might take a week now, then we’ll open it again. I’m an optimist. ”When it became clear that Corona would not disappear so quickly and that culture would not take place in the foreseeable future, the fear came.
School cinema weeks would have been in March, the month when the pandemic was felt in Germany. For Kintopp Hollfeld that meant: With the start of the lockdown you had tons of popcorn and three different country beers in barrels. That’s how street sales started from the window. The neighbors came with big jugs. “It was so well received from the start that we kept it,” says Dormann.
Some customers come from Bamberg by car every Saturday to pick up two baked cinema baguettes. “People hang out at the cinema. When I see that, I think we’re going through the crisis. ”
Eleven mini-jobbers had to fire the cinema because of Corona, the two full-time employees are on short-time work. The Free State provided 5,000 euros in emergency aid. But: “If that lasts until October, we have to shout and beg for donations,” says Hartl. Without the membership fees – staggered from 15 to 300 euros per year from the total of 260 members – as well as cultural support for the valuable program and the sponsors would not be possible. Even if it weren’t for Corona.
After the recent loosening in Bavaria, the Kintopp Hollfeld was able to put the beer garden back into operation. Films have been running again since July 3rd. Ten groups can now enter the hall per performance, whereby a “group” can be a person or a household. “It is enough for a start,” says Hartl.
The message that the team communicated from the start is clear: the cinema has survived and survived so much since it was founded in 1957, we survive that. In fact, the city light games lasted until 1978, as the cinema was called. Then it fell victim to the cinema death of time.
The rescuer came in 1983: ZDF journalist Ursula Scheicher. According to Hartl, she researched for a contribution about the workers who were driven from here to the Quelle mail-order company in Fürth – in order to then buy the cinema that needed renovation and thus fulfill a childhood dream.
Scheicher, who now lives in a nursing home, operated the Kintopp until 2011. “It has always eaten money,” says Hartl. “Ursula never earned a penny on it.” 2011 from the North Bavarian News When asked how much money she had put into the cinema, Scheicher said: “It was a lot anyway, but that is not interesting. I put it in with joy. “
When Scheicher retired in 2011, sanitary entrepreneur Ralf Söhnlein jumped into the breach. He is still associated with the cinema as a sponsor. In 2013, when it became clear that Söhnlein would not be able to wear the Hollfeld on his own, the association of cinema friends was established, traditionally at the regulars’ table.
The technology had to be renewed in the same year. There were no longer enough film copies in circulation for the old projectors from the 1950s. “So in autumn 2013 we just collected 80,000 euros,” recalls Hartl. And since Corona, the number of membership applications has increased again.
The first official act by Ursula Scheicher in 1978 was a renovation. She gave the stage to the Kintopp. To date, not only films take place here, but also concerts and cabaret, which makes cinema twice as important as a cultural location. Artists who are asked for the first time are of course skeptical at first. Dormann: “But whoever was here will come back anyway.”
Only the audience is not the easiest. Hartl calls this the “Hollfeld effect”. When an artist plays here for the first time, maybe only 20 people would come. Next year there would be 40 and the next but one 80th Dormann: “This is simply the rural mentality.”
It just takes a little longer for something to prevail. The Franke and the Fränkin are already seen as reserved, skeptical. Anyone who is convinced of an idea in the middle of Franconian Switzerland must have stamina.
In 2018, those responsible for the nonprofit GmbH “Shaping Aging” approached the Kintopp association to win it over for the silver film concept: cinema evenings for people plus and minus 100 years old, films with slow processes and a happy ending, but without explosions sometimes a classic. “We had a lot of trouble getting the homes in the area to be there,” recalls Hartl.
Meanwhile, the silver film evenings in Hollfeld are firmly established and almost something of a social event, for which the senior citizens of the place take the Sunday wardrobe out of the closet. The last silver film before Corona was “The woman of my dreams”, a Ufa musical from 1944 (“colorful spectacle from dark times”, Cinema). “The idea was jam-packed, you wouldn’t have got anyone in there anymore. Lots of radiant seniors, ”says Ruth Dormann.
Of course, like her colleague Hartl, she knows that her cinema is something special. The only one of its kind, far and wide. And when the children and senior citizens shine, when the musicians are happy about a nice evening, they know why they take it all on: bureaucracy, the fight for funding, the fear of repairs. “The heart is on it,” says Ruth Dormann. “My two children grew up here. I couldn’t imagine it without a cinema. ”